- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 22, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Federal investigators are accusing former top officials of the Washington Teachers' Union of using more than $2 million of members' dues to buy themselves luxury items, including a $20,000 fur coat and a $57,000 Tiffany silver service.
The FBI, Internal Revenue Service, Labor Department and D.C. inspector general are conducting the investigation. It began after the parent American Federation of Teachers (AFT) began auditing the local's books in response to complaints about members being overcharged dues.
Edward McElroy, the AFT's secretary-treasurer, said he was "outraged to learn of the alleged abuses of union funds for personal gain."
The probe resulted in raids Thursday of the former officials' homes and several businesses where the merchandise was believed to be stored.
An FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in the District named Barbara A. Bullock, a former president for the local; Gwendolyn M. Hemphill, Miss Bullock's assistant; and former treasurer James O. Baxter II.
A copy of the affidavit was obtained yesterday by the Associated Press.
The affidavit charges that Miss Bullock spent more than $1 million in union funds to buy nearly $500,000 in custom-made clothing; $11,000 worth of shoes; a $6,800 ice bucket from Neiman-Marcus, the high-end department store; and two sheets and two pillow cases that cost $1,195.
The document charges that Miss Bullock and Miss Hemphill also conspired with relatives to spend and launder union funds for their personal use.
The FBI's Washington field office didn't return telephone calls yesterday.
Miss Bullock did not return a call seeking comment yesterday.
Miss Hemphill, the former co-chairman of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams' re-election effort, left the campaign in September after elections officials uncovered thousands of forged signatures on the mayor's nominating petitions. Her attorney, Fred Cooke, said Miss Hemphill is cooperating with the union investigation.
Mr. Baxter's attorney had no comment.
Miss Bullock and Miss Hemphill have resigned their posts, and Mr. Baxter was suspended, the union said.
D.C. school Superintendent Paul L. Vance expressed shock over the scandal, saying the charges damage the teachers union and could taint the reputation of the school system.
Mr. Vance said Friday that he is concerned that people will get the impression there is a problem with the school system, even though it has no role in union operations.


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