Ex-DC Union Chief Pleads Guilty, Refuses to Cooperate with Investigation

Ex-Wash. Tchrs. Union president Barbara Bullock confessed to stealing more than $2.5 million of the WTU members’ dues on Oct. 7 before U.S. Dist. Judge Richard J. Leon (D.C., G.W. Bush). However, the 66-yr.-old Bullock seems prepared to accept a 10-yr. prison sentence rather than provide information about two other frmr. WTU officials — frmr. Exec. Asst. Gwendolyn Hemphill and ex-Treasurer James Baxter. Hemphill reportedly rejected a plea bargain offer from the U.S. Atny. For D.C. identical to Bullock’s on Sept. 29. Baxter has also reportedly refused to negotiate with prosecutors. After they took over the WTU earlier this year, the Amer. Fedtn. of Teachers claimed that nearly $5 million is missing from the local union’s accounts.

Unanswered in the court was how the massive theft, which acc. to the charges filed Oct. 3 took place from Nov. 1995 until Bullock’s resignation in Oct. of last year, could have gone undetected for so long. One part of that answer came in the form of a Washington Post article that detailed Bullock’s stifling of dissent. Retired teacher Booker Brooks had questioned a number of WTU presidents at union meetings, but when he began asking questions of Bullock, she stared him down and scolded him for being “negative.” Facing Bullock’s scorn and cold stares from others at the meeting, Brooks said, “I just shut up. You feel internally like somebody put you down. You feel ashamed.” Emily Washington pointed out that when she asked questions about the union’s finances, Bullock’s supporters would leave, and Bullock would end the meeting for lack of a quorum.

Also dropping the ball was the AFT, whose local affiliates are supposed to submit an audit every two years. But after 1995, Bullock failed to submit that audit. Because the WTU represents some private employees in Washington, D.C., they must file an LM-2 financial disclosure form with the labor department. But WTU members looking for information about their union would have seen only disturbing hints of their union’s shaky finances. For example, the 2000 form reported $591,262 in disbursements to employees, but it contains nothing about individual employees receiving money. The form also lists $1.7 million as paid “benefits” without even a cursory explanation. It only lists such vague categories as “contributions,” “pension expense,” and “professional development.” Nowhere on the LM-2 form was the WTU required to itemize any of its expenses. Only when local teachers saw an unannounced tenfold increase in their dues deduction last summer, and complained to the AFT did the apparent embezzlement of millions of dollars by Bullock and other WTU officials come to light.

The AFT has now appointed an administrator and claims to be cleaning up the mess. But some teachers don’t trust the AFT to clean up a mess from their Washington headquarters when they couldn’t smell the mess years in the making. Some teachers have asked that a court-appointed monitor take over the WTU. On April 30, AFT lawyers admitted to U.S. Dist. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan that while the AFT requires audits from its affiliates every two years (which the WTU failed to do), it had no legal responsibility to even verify that the audits had been filed. “It’s a sad commentary,” Judge Sullivan said. “It seems everyone in a responsible position fell asleep at the switch. The only ones who were vigilant were the thieves, who took everything that wasn’t nailed down.”

Judge Leon scheduled Bullock’s sentencing for Jan. 16 on charges of conspiracy and mail fraud. As part of the plea, Bullock agreed to pay a $500,000 fine and drop all claims to the furs, clothes, artwork and other luxury items she bought with the pilfered union funds. [U.S.A.O. D.C., 10/6/03: Washington Post, 10/7/03, 10/8/03]

DC Accomplice Pleads Guilty to Laundering Embezzled Funds
One week before ex-Wash. Tchrs. Union president Barbara Bullock pled guilty to embezzling more than $2.5 million in union funds, Errol Alderman was charged with laundering more than $480,000 of those funds through a fictitious business. According to the Information filed the day of his plea, Alderman opened a bank account in 1998 in the name of “Expressions Unlimited.” The reportedly fictitious company was controlled by Alderman and Michael Martin, son-in-law of then-WTU exec. asst. Gwendolyn Hemphill. Alderman and Martin would deposit WTU checks signed by Bullock, Hemphill, and then-WTU treasurer James Baxter into the front business’s account, then distribute the funds to Bullock and Hemphill. According to the Information, Alderman helped to launder $483,543 in stolen union funds. Martin pled guilty in April. [U.S.A.O. D.C., 9/30/03]