- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Washington Teachers Union President Barbara A. Bullock was a demanding bully, but office manager Gwendolyn M. Hemphill was hardworking and an easygoing co-worker, a witness said yesterday at the trial of Mrs. Hemphill and two other former union officials accused of embezzling nearly $5 million in union dues.

Union employee Kwame Bryant said Mrs. Hemphill “did what she could to keep the office running” after the departure of Bullock, who is serving nine years in prison for stealing union money.

Mrs. Hemphill often worked after the 5 p.m. quitting time and had an office in her home in which she continued to handle office chores, said Mr. Bryant, a defense witness who underscored earlier testimony that Bullock was often away from the office, leaving Mrs. Hemphill to carry out her orders.

Work piled up after a longtime accountant died, said Mr. Bryant, who carried out numerous office duties such as answering phones, making deliveries and chauffeuring officials. Mrs. Hemphill began to do the accounting after the employee’s death, he said.

Defense witnesses are expected to conclude their testimony today in the trial of Mrs. Hemphill, 64; former Treasurer James O. Baxter II, 50; and former accountant James A. Goosby, 56. They are accused of conspiracy and theft of roughly $5 million from 1997 to 2002.

The prosecution already has presented its case. Closing arguments are expected to begin tomorrow.

Under cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Alexis, Mr. Bryant said Bullock and Mrs. Hemphill often gave him checks, which he would cash before returning the money to them. The money included $1,500 a week for Mrs. Hemphill’s petty cash fund, which she used to pay routine expenses.

Mr. Bryant also testified that his duties included going to D.C. education offices to collect per capita dues from union teachers’ pay. As the union’s financial problems mounted, he said, dues were increased in 2001 and he found about $800,000 waiting for him.

“I was amazed,” he testified.

Five other former employees have pleaded guilty to related charges and are awaiting sentencing. They include Cheryl and Michael Martin, Mrs. Hemphill’s daughter and son-in-law.

Another daughter, Karen Hemphill, testified yesterday on behalf of her mother.

Miss Hemphill said that even before she began living in her parents’ home she sometimes paid them cash for rent and to help with treatment for her brother, who is permanently crippled and in a wheelchair after falling from a seventh-floor window.

The rent varied from $600 to $800 a month, said Miss Hemphill, who also testified that FBI agents and other federal officers did not question her after searching her parents’ home and seizing financial records and articles thought to have been purchased with union funds or with the union’s American Express credit card.

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