The faculty union at the University of Toledo has fired its longtime executive director amid allegations she skimmed more than $50,000 from union coffers.
Mary Jane Erard was terminated Thursday — the same day a civil complaint outlining the theft allegations was filed in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. She has not been charged with any criminal offenses, and attorneys for the UT chapter of the American Association of University Professors did not return calls and emails for comment Friday.
The suit accuses Ms. Erard of making unauthorized credit-card charges, collecting unauthorized compensation, and making unauthorized electronic transfers of union funds to an E-Trade account “calculated to be in excess of $50,000.”
Alan Kirshner, attorney for Ms. Erard, said the complaint is entirely without merit.
“Every dime was approved by the treasurer, authorized by the board, and went through an independent CPA audit in which it was approved,” he said.
According to the complaint, Ms. Erard was hired in 1994 as office manager for the organization and given the title of executive director in 2001. As such, she performed administrative duties for the union, reported to its board, and served as a liaison between faculty members and the union’s board, officers, and committees, the complaint states.
While the UT-AAUP contends Ms. Erard did not have authority to issue or sign checks from its bank accounts, the chapter alleges she used its credit card for personal expenses and did not reimburse the union for those expenses.
The union also alleges she “had, at different times, instructed a payroll services company to issue her compensation for ‘overtime’ in spite of Erard holding a salaried position for which no overtime compensation was earned.”
In addition, she allegedly had the payroll services company pay her for unused, accrued vacation and sick time without approval from the board. Ms. Erard also is accused of making unauthorized electronic transfers of UT-AAUP funds to an E-Trade account that she personally controlled.
Ms. Erard, who also is a well-known pastel landscape artist, was placed on unpaid administrative leave Feb. 8 and served with a termination notice through Mr. Kirshner on Thursday.
Mr. Kirshner said Ms. Erard will actively fight the lawsuit and her termination. He said the union wanted to get rid of her, ironically, because she and a former co-worker looked into joining a union themselves. He said the union’s board also wanted to use the money spent on her wages and benefits — $70,000 a year — on themselves. In the process, he said, her computer was hacked, her identity stolen, her personal documents taken, and her right to join a union violated.
“There will be a counterclaim in which they will have to answer for what they have done,” Mr. Kirshner said.
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