Until about three years ago the Washington Teachers Union (WTU) had been run by what amounted to a theft and money-laundering ring. Now the local’s new leadership has a message: It wants its money back – as soon as possible. With help from federal prosecutors, it’s begun the recovery process. Early this month the union filed a claim to the $31,178 seized by the government from a Charles Schwab account registered in the names of Gwendolyn Hemphill and her husband, Charles Hemphill. Mrs. Hemphill, formerly the local’s office manager, along with ex-treasurer James O. Baxter II, was convicted on August 31 on 23 counts of conspiracy, embezzlement and other offenses. It’s true that $31,178 is only a drop in the bucket in comparison to the $4.6 million or more that the local leadership ripped off. But prosecutors and the current local leadership would call it a decent start.
Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, announced that prosecutors had sought a forfeiture order pursuant to a motion filed in February. Prosecutors plan separately to auction mink coats, silver placements, and designer handbags bought with the stolen money. Phillips could not give an estimate as to how much money the auctions would generate or what portion the union would receive. WTU President George Parker asserted the intention of his union and its parent affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers, to pursue all claims. “I think that whatever the amount we get, it will at least be a small recovery to make the teachers whole,” he said. Additionally, the WTU and AFT have filed a civil RICO suit against Hemphill, Baxter, WTU ex-president Barbara Bullock (now in prison), and other principals involved. (Washington Times, 9/8).