What began as a dues over-charge this summer of $700,000, has apparently mushroomed to a diversion of more than $2 million from the the Wash. Tchrs. Union (WTU) by its three leading officials.
On Dec. 19, federal agents raided the homes and offices of the ex-officials: president Barbara Bullock, asst. Gwendolyn Hemphill, and treasurer James Baxter, and confiscated a host of personal items that the three purchased with union funds. According to a FBI search warrant, Bullock allegedly purchased more than $1 million in goods and services, including, but not limited to: $500,000 in custom made clothing from Baltimore clothier Van Style, $150,000 at Neiman Marcus, $57,000 for a 288-piece Tiffany sterling silver set from a New Orleans antique dealer, $50,000 at Snazzy Limited in Orange Park, Fla., $50,000 at Nordstrom, $40,000 at Saks Fifth Ave., and $25,000 at Parkway Custom Dry Cleaners in Chevy Chase, Md.
Bullock has run the WTU since 1994. Agents are tracking the three’s expenses dating to 1995. The alleged scheme of embezzlement apparently began to unravel this summer, when local teachers found their paycheck dues deductions leaping from $16 to $160, adding up to $700,000. When teachers complained to the Amer. Fedtn. of Teachers HQ in DC, natl. officials began an audit, the results of which they turned over to the U.S. Attny. They also demanded the three officials’ resignations.
Agents also searched the homes and offices of relatives of the ex-officials, who allegedly joined in the conspiracy to spend funds from the WTU’s checking accounts and credit cards for personal items. Hemphill’s brother-in-law, Michael Martin, for instance, allegedly charged the union for such services as “transporting Barbara Bullock in search of additional wardrobe,” acc. to his invoice to the WTU.
The U.S. Attny. in DC has not yet filed charges against the three. [Washington Post 12/20/02]