Court Approves Settlement; Ex-D.C. Local Trustees Must Repay

Nathan Saunders is on a mission.  He’s a teacher at Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia High School.  And his main lesson for the last three years has been that crime doesn’t pay – especially when it’s committed by officials of his own local union, the Washington Teachers Union (WTU).  For a good seven years, the WTU had fleeced its members all the while claiming to represent them.  In 2002, an independent audit revealed roughly $5 million in local funds were missing.  Saunders, now the WTU’s vice president, promptly sued the union and a local financial institution, Independence Federal Savings Bank, where the WTU conducted a large number of unusual transactions.  He demanded a recovery of the missing funds, even as the Justice Department was prosecuting the ringleaders.  Now he appears on the verge of solace. 


U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on October 5 released a proposed resolution of the suit.  The tentative agreement calls for the WTU and its parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), to “jointly pursue the recovery of money from those who embezzled and absconded with millions of dollars from the WTU.”  In addition, the union and the federation would pursue “individuals and entities that aided and abetted or facilitated the embezzlement of funds.”  The court document outlines a repayment plan requiring the local to reimburse the AFT in the sum of $466,638 over four years.  The settlement isn’t yet a done deal.  Because Saunders filed his suit on behalf of the union, rank-and-file members will get a chance to review the agreement.  Patricia Byrne, his attorney, believes member approval is almost certain, noting that the union’s current board of directors already has voted favorably.  Meanwhile, deposed ex-President Barbara Bullock pleaded guilty two years ago, and is doing a nine-year sentence in federal prison; two office cronies, Gwendolyn Hemphill and James O. Baxter II, recently were convicted in a trial, and await sentencing.  (Washington Times, 10/8).