LOCUST VALLEY, N.Y. – The Locust Valley Central School District wants a former music teacher who used students for his sexual satisfaction to reimburse his earnings for the last three years, but union officials are fighting the case on his behalf.
A Nassau County judge recently ordered the school district to arbitrate with the teachers union over compensation paid to former music teacher John E. Benstock between November 2000 and Feb. 25, 2013, the day he pleaded guilty to numerous sex abuse charges, Newsday.com reports.
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“The district, in legal papers before Supreme Court Justice Thomas Feinman, alleges that Benstock should be required to forfeit the compensation ‘by reason of his egregious acts of disloyalty, disobedience, fraud and other misconduct, and pay costs to the school district for all costs associated with the investigation concerning misconduct,’” according to the news site.
The teacher pleaded guilty to four counts of second-degree sexual abuse and 10 counts of endangering the welfare of a child after he admitted to forcing young students to play games that involved touching him inappropriately through his clothes. Benstock, 50, was sentenced to six years of probation, lost his teaching certificate, and must register as a sex offender for 20 years as part of a plea agreement, Newsday reports.
Benstock was paid $119,874 in 2012, his last full year of employment, though the total the district is demanding for payback is not clear.
Locust Valley is attempting to employ New York’s “faithless servant doctrine” – also known as “clawbacks” – a legal concept that requires disloyal employees to forfeit all or part of their compensation. But the local teachers union argues that Benstock’s employment is subject to the district’s collective bargaining agreement, which allegedly prohibits clawbacks.
The school district attempted to avoid the arbitration process, which tends to favor employees over employers, by arguing that Benstock was not a union member when he resigned, therefore is not protected by the union contract.
“Feinman, in his decision, said the teachers union demonstrated a ‘reasonable relationship’ between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the collective bargaining agreement” and ordered the district to take the case to an arbitrator, the news site reports.
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“It has been held that issues such as a school district’s relationship to retired or discharged employees and the question of whether such former employees are covered by the grievance procedure are for the arbitrator to decide,” Feinman wrote.
“We are pleased with the decision,” NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn said. “It was the ruling that we sought, and we believe the collective bargaining agreement and the statute are the best vehicles for addressing this issue.”
That’s likely because taking the case through the arbitration process under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement represent the union’s best chance for protecting this convicted pedophile.
What’s less clear is why the union is fighting so hard to protect a man who repeatedly took advantage of his position and the young children in his care for his own sexual satisfaction.
The case provides an interesting look at how New York’s labor laws apply to public employees who are convicted of this type of egregious misconduct. But more importantly, it provides insight into the priorities of the state’s teachers union, which is obviously more interested in protecting a child molester than working with the district to reclaim the compensation Benstock clearly did not deserve.
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