State auditors examine job of Hammond teachers union vice president

2012-08-31T16:30:00Z 2012-09-02T00:01:05Z State auditors examine job of Hammond teachers union vice presidentCarmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

The Indiana State Board of Accounts plans to take a closer look at the job of the vice president of the Hammond Federation of Teachers.

Vice President Dave Safstrom works as the safety/energy specialist for the School City of Hammond. He said he has been in that position for 13 years.

Safstrom, who doesn't teach, is paid as a teacher and is considered part of the union. He has been a union vice president for 25 years, he said.

Paul Joyce, Indiana State Board of Accounts deputy examiner, said the state agency plans to look at Safstrom's job and how he is paid.

"We want to know more about what that entails. We can't make any sort of judgment until we go in and look at everything and talk to him," Joyce said.

Joyce also said auditors are currently at the Gary Community School Corp. He said new Gary school Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt asked them to audit the district.

"She wants to identify exactly where the district is at financially," Joyce said.

Pruitt couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

The state agency's review of Hammond's Safstrom follows a state audit of union President Patrick O'Rourke, who is paid as a teacher by the school system but does not teach. O'Rourke has been president of the Hammond teachers union since 1969 and is paid $73,412 annually.

While auditors did not ask O'Rourke to pay anything back, they forwarded the report to the Lake County prosecutor's office and the Indiana attorney general's office.

O'Rourke said Friday he expected the issues to be resolved soon.

O'Rourke said Safstrom gets a stipend from the union as vice president. However, Safstrom really does two jobs for the school corporation, saving it thousands of dollars, O'Rourke said.

"We handled this on a teacher's salary rather than going out and hiring another administrator. We were trying to be smart and creative and save the corporation money. Now we are being criticized for it," O'Rourke said. "This state doesn't have any idea about sophisticated labor relations. It looks like they want a total separation between labor and management."

Safstrom said he'll let the auditors do their job, and "they can come in and look at whatever they need to look at," Safstrom said.

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