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Teacher's suit over union dues settled

Maureen Stavrakoglou, a special-education teacher in the Brentwood

Maureen Stavrakoglou, a special-education teacher in the Brentwood school district, joined hundreds at a forum given by New York State Education commissioner Dr. John King at Eastport South Manor Junior-Senior High School to discuss the Common Core Curriculum. (Nov. 26, 2013) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A Brentwood teacher has settled a lawsuit she brought against local and state teacher unions after dues she had paid did not go to her designated charities, officials said.

The settlement of Maureen Stavrakoglou's suit, filed in 2011 in State Supreme Court in Suffolk County, requires that the Brentwood Teachers Association and New York State United Teachers make up for all missed donations from 2006 to 2013, plus interest, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which represented the teacher.

It also requires the state teachers union to assign a staff attorney to oversee the process of charitable payments and to ensure that Stavrakoglou's future donations are made to her designated charities, the legal defense foundation said in a news release last week.

The amount in missed donations from Stavrakoglou's dues that the unions must pay was not clear. Will Collins, deputy communications director for the legal defense foundation, did not return calls last week.

Stavrakoglou did not return calls seeking comment.

"We're thrilled the issue has been resolved and we anticipate no issues moving forward," Kevin Coyne, the new president of the Brentwood Teachers Association, said Friday.

Carl Korn, a spokesman for NYSUT, the state's largest teachers union, said, "We are pleased with the settlement. We do not anticipate any problems going forward."

As a teacher in the Brentwood Union Free School District, Stavrakoglou is required to pay dues to the Brentwood Teachers Association, which in turn submits dues to NYSUT.

Employees with sincere religious objections to supporting a union have the option of asking that their dues be sent to a charity agreed upon by both parties, the legal defense foundation said. In 2005, the unions had agreed to redirect all of Stavrakoglou's dues to charity.

For the next several years, Stavrakoglou chose a new charity each year to be the recipient of her union dues. But it came to her attention that at least two of the charities -- the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation -- never received donations in her name, the lawsuit contended.

Another charity, the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation, started receiving the donations in her name only after Stavrakoglou called union officials to ask about her dues, the suit said.

With Joie Tyrrell

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