Former IPS Teachers Union President Pleads Guilty, Faces Up To 20 Years For Embezzlement

Jul 22, 2019

The former president of the teachers union representing Indianapolis Public Schools pleaded guilty Monday in federal court for embezzlement of more than $100,000 from the labor group.

Rhondalyn Cornett, 54, now faces up to 20 years in prison, fines and more, according to a release from the U.S. Justice Department. 

Cornett led the Indianapolis Education Association, or IEA, for five years until last November when allegations of theft were made public by the state teachers association. The IEA is the collective bargaining unit for IPS teachers. It is responsible for negotiating the salary and hours for teachers in their annual or bi-annual contract.

Cornett, according to the release, used her position and authority to withdraw cash with a debit card and write checks from the union’s bank account for personal expenses totaling more than $100,000.

Cornett pleaded guilty in the Indianapolis-based District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. She could not be reached for comment today.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to prosecuting individuals, like Cornett, who abuse their positions of public trust,” U. S. Attorney Josh J. Minkler said in a statement. “Teachers depend on the union dues they’ve paid from their paychecks in order for the union to represent their best interests.”    

The Federal Bureau of Investigation joined the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to investigate the allegations.

IMPD Chief Bryan Roach said teachers have a great responsibility to shape the city’s next generation of leaders and works.

“It is unacceptable that anyone would seek to take advantage of the selfless individuals who have dedicated their careers to educating,” Roach said in a statement.

A year ago, the Indiana State Teachers Association received a complaint about the Cornett’s management of IEA. In response, the association reviewed IEA’s election procedures and undertook a financial audit. In November the association announced Cornett’s resignation and forwarded its report to IMPD’s Organized Crime Section.

Cornett faces up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and up to three years supervised release following imprisonment, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley P. Shepard.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.