- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 9, 2003

The federal money-laundering and conspiracy case involving officials of the Washington Teachers' Union won its first criminal conviction last week, when Leroy Holmes, the former chauffeur for WTU President Barbara Bullock, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to launder more than $1 million in union funds. While the conviction is critical, the fact that the WTU and the American Federation of Teachers think D.C. government is somehow liable for its nonfeasance cannot be ignored.
Holmes cashed approximately $1.2 million in WTU checks, most of which were issued payable to him. His role in the skullduggery began in October 1998 and extended through the middle of last year. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that his criminal activities began long after the WTU became delinquent in filing its internal audit with the AFT, its parent union. Indicative of the AFT's nonfeasance is the additional fact that Holmes' role in the scheme was able to continue for more than three-and-a-half years because the AFT refused to enforce its rules that required internal audits every two years from its locals. In fact, the last audit that the WTU conducted for the AFT was in 1995, one year after Miss Bullock was elected president. Even the WTU's delinquent status in remitting hundreds of thousands of dollars in overdue dues payments to the AFT throughout 2001 and 2002 did not trigger the parent organization's interest in how the WTU was keeping its books.
Had the AFT fulfilled its fiduciary duty during the Bullock years, it would have learned that the WTU had not employed an accountant since 1996. The AFT would have learned that Holmes was paid between $105,000 (his estimate of his 2001 salary) and $150,000 (the amount on his WTU-supplied tax form for 2001) to be Miss Bullock's personal chauffeur. With Miss Bullock's official salary at $106,840, that means Holmes was either the union's second-highest-paid official or its highest. The AFT also would have learned that the WTU paid Holmes' expenses for his three Cadillacs, including repairs, insurance and gasoline.
Holmes has recounted stories of stuffing handfuls of cash in his pants before leaving the bank. Oftentimes, the checks he cashed were so large that he had to telephone the bank in advance to make sure its cash reserves were adequate. At worst, AFT's timely enforcement would have uncovered his brazen modus operandi in its early stages.
Holmes, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg, since he and others implicated in the conspiracy are accused at least $5 million in improper and questionable expenditures. The fraud dates to 1996, the year after the AFT received its last WTU audit.
Now, the WTU is pressuring the D.C. government to assume partial liability for its dilemma, and AFT spokesman Alex Wohl has said the AFT would "look into" the District's liability.
It is the AFT's failure to enforce its own rules and to meet its own fiduciary responsibilities that permitted the fraud to become so massive. D.C. taxpayers must not be tapped to replenish the WTU and the AFT coffers. They already are paying for the various criminal and civil court cases involving the two unions.

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