- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 11, 2003

The interim president of the Washington Teachers Union was paid a salary of $90,000 a year in her previous position as general vice president in an apparent violation of the union's constitution.
Esther S. Hankerson, who took over as union president after Barbara A. Bullock resigned in October, has received a salary since 1994 during her tenure as the union's general vice president, an elected board post.
Elected board members are not allowed to receive salaries, according to the union's bylaws and sources familiar with the group's constitution.
"The paid officers should only be the president and the treasurer. Those who put the constitution together understood that if you give the board the power to hire themselves, then there is the potential for a conflict of interest," said a former union official who asked not to be identified.
"Under the [union] constitution and bylaws, the executive board cannot hire and compensate themselves as elected officers," said a current union official knowledgeable in the matter.
Mrs. Hankerson did not return several calls seeking comment.
Meanwhile, the executive board has rejected a request from some of the union's 5,000 members for an emergency meeting Monday on the group's financial solvency and ethical standards.
In a prepared statement, the board said, "The issues cited as cause for the request failed to meet the criteria for convening such a meeting."
The teachers union has been embroiled in a growing scandal since its parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers, audited the local's books in the fall and found that members had been overcharged $700,000 in dues and that more than $2 million had been misappropriated.
Federal agencies, including the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service, are investigating the matter. Three former union officials Mrs. Bullock, treasurer James O. Baxter and Gwendolyn M. Hemphill, Mrs. Bullock's former assistant have been named in a federal affidavit that was used to search their homes and those of their relatives last month.
Federal agents seized thousands of dollars worth of luxury items and financial documents during their search of the homes.
No criminal charges have been filed, and the three have denied any wrongdoing.
Miss Bullock and Mrs. Hemphill resigned, and Mr. Baxter was suspended in the fall.
Mrs. Hankerson has proclaimed ignorance of any irregularities that may have occurred in the union's bookkeeping.
In a lawsuit filed Dec. 27 against the union's executive board, D.C. teacher Nathan A. Saunders accuses Mrs. Hankerson of violating the union's bylaws in receiving a salary during her tenure as general vice president.
"Hankerson, who formerly held the position of General Vice President, manipulated since 1994 this previous volunteer position into a paid position while maintaining the same duties and responsibilities," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit accuses the executive board, and Mrs. Hankerson in particular, of improperly using funds, saying her $90,000 a year salary since 1994 was wrongly collected from the union.


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