Teachers' Union Scandal Rocks Capital; Democrat Party Official, Mayor's Aide Resign Under Pressure

By Jeff Gannon

January 24, 2003

WASHINGTON (GOPUSA News) -- The American Federation of Teachers has taken control of the Washington Teachers Union after an audit appeared to suggest misappropriation of funds by several of its officers. About $5 million was stolen over a period of seven years according to the AFT's preliminary report.

Union officials are alleged to have diverted money to themselves and their associates through altered checks, credit card charges, and cash payments.

A civil lawsuit has been filed by the AFT against former WTU President Barbara A. Bullock, her assistant Gwendolyn Hemphill, Treasurer James O. Baxter II and five others. The lawsuit alleges unauthorized credit card charges by Bullock of at least $1.8 million and an additional $381,000 diverted by writing checks to herself and others. Hemphill is accused of diverting $492,000 to herself and Baxter $537,000 for his own personal use.

A search of the homes of those named in the suit conducted by agents of the FBI, IRS and DC Inspector General's Office resulted in the recovery of furs, art, jewelry, silver, and clothing charged to union credit cards. Among the items seized was a $57,000 Tiffany silverware set taken from the Bullock residence and a $13,000 plasma screen television removed from Hemphill's home.

Hemphill was also Executive Director of the DC Democrat Party until her recent resignation. She also served as co-chair of DC Mayor Anthony Williams' 2002 re-election campaign that was fined $277,000 in a scandal involving forged signatures on nominating petitions. Fallout from the widening investigation has resulted in the resignation of one of the Mayor's key aides, Mrs. Hemphill's husband Larry.

A search of the records also revealed political contributions Bullock made in 2000 with the union's credit card of $9,000 to the Democrat National Committee and $2,000 to the Senate campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton. An investigation is underway to determine if Mayor Williams' campaign also received improper contributions.

In a statement, the DC Mayor distanced himself from the union. "While, they have been close supporters, and while I continue to support our teachers and support education, that's what really troubles me, is the impact on teachers here. And I want to continue to support them, I have not, do not run the teachers' union, have nothing to do with the problems that have afflicted the teachers' union by individuals whose behavior was horrible," Williams said.

The scandal began to emerge last year when unpaid union rent and telephone bills and members' complaints of unreimbursed legal bills drew attention to the financial operations of the 5,000-member union. An audit by the parent union was triggered after an accusation of dues overcharges was made by a local member. No charges have yet been filed in the criminal investigation.


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