- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2005

Washington Teachers Union officials yesterday said they will hold a runoff between the two top vote-getters in last month’s election to select the successor to former President Barbara A. Bullock, who was sent to federal prison for stealing union dues.

But a third-place candidate said she is appealing the election results to the U.S. Department of Labor because of what she perceives as widespread voting irregularities.

“We can’t start off on this kind of note,” said teacher Elizabeth Davis, who finished third in last month’s election behind teacher George Parker and union activist Rachel Hicks.

Ms. Davis said she has heard from many teachers in the 4,400-member union who reported they never received ballots.

She said other members were upset that the union’s new bylaws were changed without their knowledge. Ms. Davis also said she knew of at least one ballot box that was left unsupervised during the election.

“A lot of members never received a copy of the constitution,” said Ms. Davis, adding that she had planned to challenge the election even if she had won.

Union officials yesterday defended the election, saying a runoff between Mr. Parker and Ms. Hicks is necessary because new bylaws require that the president receive at least 50 percent of the vote.

“The ballots were prepared by an outside agency, and nobody from the union touched these ballots,” said Terence Cooper, spokesman for the Washington Teachers Union (WTU).

“The ballots were distributed, collected and counted by the outside firm, with representatives of each candidate as witnesses,” he said. “There was no motivation for any wrongdoing.”

Some members were anxious to hold local elections for the first time in more that two years to move out from under the cloud of the embezzlement scandal during Bullock’s tenure.

American Federation of Teachers — WTU’s parent union — took control of the organization in January 2003 as details emerged about Bullock’s role in the theft of millions of dollars in union dues between 1995 through 2002.

Bullock pleaded guilty last year to her role in the scheme and admitted spending teacher dues on artwork, sports tickets and furs. She is serving a nine-year prison term.

Federal prosecutors last year also indicted Bullock’s executive assistant, Gwendolyn Hemphill, and former union treasurer James O. Baxter II. Neither has been tried yet.

The runoff election between Mr. Parker and Ms. Hicks is expected to be completed by the end of the month, Mr. Cooper said.

Mr. Parker received 520 votes and Ms. Hicks 514. Ms. Davis received 288 votes, about 21 percent of the votes cast.

The union represents more than 6,000 teachers in the city.

“The turnout was not as great as we would have liked,” Mr. Cooper said.

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