Sources within the Rockland Community College community have informed the Rockland County Times of the nature of Dr. Cliff Garner’s control of union finances and some of the specifics of the allegations against him. Garner, the president of the RCC Federation of Teachers, was arrested last week and accused of skimming at least $200,000 from the teachers fund between 2010 and 2014.
The newspaper’s sources say that Garner was known to have “sole control” of the disbursement of all union dues collected by RCC’s Payroll Office from each individual paycheck. A check was cut to Garner by the Payroll Office; and then he and he alone told NYSUT [a federation of 1,200 local unions] based on how many of the various classes of members had contributed, what the union owed NYSUT.
NYSUT, in turn, sent a bill based on the good faith of this “accounting.” An aspect of the charges against Garner is that he under-reported the membership numbers so as to skim the difference, possibly thousands per month for years.
The newspaper’s sources stated that Garner had failed to provide end of the year audits to NYSUT, so there was no oversight, and that he somehow managed to exclude the customary second signatory on the checks, with NYSUT’s approval; and that he simultaneously and systematically excluded all other board members from accessing the budget. None of these practices conform to the generally accepted best practice of having two or three persons overseeing a fund and signing checks.
“Everyone trusted him,” a source said. “If it turns out to be true, it’s the worst violation of public trust imaginable.”
The Rockland County Times has reached out to the RCCFT acting leadership seeking comment on the overall situation, and reaction to the statements of our sources. The paper has yet to hear back.
Garner has remained in jail on $50,000 bail and is using a public defender, a possible strategy to appear lacking in money.