- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

D.C. teachers held an unsanctioned emergency meeting last night to voice opposition to the Washington Teachers Union's executive board and to vote on matters pertaining to recent findings that $2 million was misappropriated by former top union officials.
The more than 150 teachers gathered at Dunbar High School in Northwest issued an almost unanimous vote of no confidence against the 21 members of the union's executive board and a vote to recall the board.
The vote came three days after the board turned down a request by more than 250 teachers for a sanctioned meeting.
"The leadership declined because they believe they are the ultimate authority of this union," said Elizabeth Davis, a teacher at Sousa Middle School in Southeast and one of the meeting organizers.
The board issued a statement that the teachers have the right to meet whenever they want, but that the gathering last night "is not a sanctioned meeting and no official business can be conducted."
"They just don't want to respond to the questions we want to discuss," Mrs. Davis said.
The union has been embroiled in a growing scandal since its parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), audited the local's books in the fall and found that members had been overcharged $800,000 in dues and that more than $2 million had been misappropriated.
The FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and others are investigating former union President Barbara A. Bullock, her assistant Gwendolyn M. Hemphill and Treasurer James O. Baxter II. The three have been named in a federal affidavit used last month to search their homes and those of others.
Miss Bullock and Mrs. Hemphill resigned in September under pressure from the board, while Mr. Baxter was suspended.
Sanctioned or not, the teachers will formally introduce the motions they voted on at a monthly meeting on Jan. 27.
"That removes any question as to whether what we did was legitimate," said George Parker, a teacher at Eliot Junior High School in Northeast.
The board and interim President Esther S. Hankerson have come under fire in recent weeks from teachers.
Teacher Nathan A. Saunders filed suit against the board and Mrs. Hankerson in U.S. District Court on Dec. 27, blaming them for a lack of oversight that allowed the corruption to occur and for violation of several of the union's constitutional bylaws.
Mr. Saunders is asking the court to dissolve the union's board and board of trustees and appoint an independent body to secure the organization's records and to hold immediate elections for all board positions.
AFT officials have said they may seek to take control of the local union.
But two D.C. teachers, Alfred Hubbard and Roland Ashby-Rier, in response to news of the possible federation takeover and to Mr. Saunders' lawsuit, have filed a suit to stay any decision coming out of that case.
"We don't believe the AFT will look out for the best interests of the members of the local," Mr. Hubbard said. "And whomever the court appoints to oversee the union, we want a body made up of teachers to have some role in the oversight."
The teachers also voted to require the board to turn over by Feb. 13 all financial records and copies of its meeting minutes from January 1995 through January 2003.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that the re-election campaign of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams also has been touched by the union scandal.
Mrs. Hemphill, the mayor's former campaign co-chairman, said she used union funds to pay a $2,000 political bill sent to the mayor's office. The money was used to pay for T-shirts and other items associated with a voting rights campaign distributed at the Democratic National Convention in 2000.
Mrs. Hemphill said Chief of Staff Kelvin Robinson called her last year and told her to take care of the bill. But Mr. Robinson said he expected the bill would be paid from campaign accounts, not from union funds.

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