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Education Reporter

Million-Dollar Shopping Spree 
WTU officials spend members' dues

WASHINGTON, DC - On Dec. 23, the FBI filed papers in U.S. District Court alleging the misuse of more than $2 million in union funds by Washington Teachers Union (WTU) officials. The Washington Post reported (12-20-02 and 12-24-02) that federal agents confiscated hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of clothing, shoes, original artwork, furs, a $57,000 Tiffany tea set, a $13,000 television, dozens of wigs, and designer handbags from the residences of WTU president Barbara A. Bullock and her former assistant, Gwendolyn M. Hemphill.

Agents also seized computer equipment, tax records and phone numbers from the office of Hemphill's son-in-law, Michael Martin, a supervisory programs analyst at the Washington, D.C. office of HIV/AIDS prevention. According to the Post, a company run by Martin called Expressions Unlimited "billed the union for false or misleading expenses." The FBI affidavit alleges that Martin conspired with Hemphill "to channel more than $120,000 in union funds through his company."

AFT Files Suit 
While no criminal charges have been filed, the WTU's parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), filed a racketeering lawsuit on Jan. 16 against Bullock, Hemphill, and former WTO treasurer James O. Baxter. Baxter allegedly used union credit cards to charge thousand of dollars for personal expenses at stores, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and to fuel multiple vehicles at gas stations.

The AFT disclosed in a press release that a "forensic audit" showed that more than $5 million in union funds have been misappropriated by WTU officials. The RICO lawsuit was filed "on behalf of the nearly 5,000 members of the WTU."

Bullock was elected president of the WTU in 1994, and financial records dating back to 1995 are under scrutiny. Bullock, Hemphill and Baxter resigned from their posts last fall when agents from the FBI, IRS, and the U.S. Labor Department began closing in.

The extent of the fraud has generated widespread outrage. Syndicated columnist Walter Williams wrote on Jan. 9 that "while Washington's criminal education establishment robs its teachers, the damage to teachers pales in comparison to the damage to the children of the district." Williams called education in the nation's capital "disastrous," pointing out that "at only one of the city's 19 high schools do as many as 50% of the students test as proficient in reading. At no school are 50% of the students proficient in math."

Misuse 'Breathtaking'  
The Washington Post editorialized that the extent of the misuse of funds was "breathtaking," and asked an obvious question: "How could such an allegedly massive misappropriation of union funds occur over such a long period of time and under the noses of so many people, including the union's board of directors, the union's members and the American Federation of Teachers?"

On Jan. 21, the California-based Education Intelligence Agency (EIA) reported that AFT auditors confirmed that the WTU's "LM-2 report to the U.S. Department of Labor does not accurately depict the true nature and amount of the transactions discovered during our investigation."

Illegal Political Contributions 
EIA also stated that the AFT audit "revealed details unmentioned even in the FBI affidavit." For example, the WTU made two political contributions in violation of federal law: a $9,000 contribution to the Democratic National Committee and a $2,000 contribution to Hillary Clinton's 2000 election campaign.

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