- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said he has no connection with the Washington Teachers Union scandal, saying the ethical lapses of his first administration are a thing of the past.
Mr. Williams said he is "disgusted" by reports that $2 million was misappropriated from the union. The mayor also said he is unaware of any illicit activity by former union President Barbara A. Bullock, a friend of Mr. Williams', or her former assistant, Gwendolyn M. Hemphill, who served as co-chairman of his re-election campaign.
"What really troubles me in all this is what was done to our teachers, while they have been our closest supporters But I don't run the teachers union," Mr. Williams said at his weekly press briefing.
The mayor denied that his administration is linked to scandal and that the former union officials being investigated had any undue influence on his hiring practices, appointments or contract awards. He was responding to questions about assertions against him in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit brought by Charles Holman, former director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights.
The Washington Times reported Sept. 14 that Mr. Holman had filed a $55 million lawsuit against the city in which he states that Miss Bullock and Mrs. Hemphill had exerted pressure on him, through the mayor, to force him to extend a contract to Curtis Lewis, the brother of suspended union Treasurer James O. Baxter II.
The FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies are investigating Miss Bullock, Mrs. Hemphill and Mr. Baxter. The three were named in a federal affidavit last month that was used to search their homes and those of their relatives and others.
The federal investigation began when the parent organization the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) audited the local's books after discovering members had been overcharged $800,000 for dues. Miss Bullock and Mrs. Hemphill resigned in September under pressure from the union's executive board; Mr. Baxter was suspended.
AFT spokesman Alex Wohl said the local cut a check to the AFT for $700,000 to cover outstanding dues owed since June, The Times reported yesterday. A source close to the investigation said the money came from the overcharged dues.
The parent group became suspicious when officials of the local refused to reimburse members, which led current union President Esther S. Hankerson then acting as the general vice president to call for an audit in July.
In his lawsuit, Mr. Holman said he was fired last summer when he tried to block the contract awarded to Mr. Lewis.
Mr. Williams yesterday said Mr. Holman was dismissed due to staff complaints about discrimination and his management style.
"I have never interfered in a contract or told anyone you must hire this person," the mayor said.
Last year, Mr. Williams was forced to run a write-in campaign for the Democratic primary after the D.C. Board of Election and Ethics found thousands of forgeries among his nominating petitions. In addition, the D.C. Inspector General's Office issued a report saying he was "ultimately responsible" for improper fund raising in the mayor's office.
"All of this [teachers union] mess happened in the past administration and are an aftermath of those things," Mr. Williams said. "The people voted for me knowing I had these problems, knowing I've made some bad decisions wanting me to focus on the future and that's what I'm doing."


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