- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2003

Two former officials of the Washington Teachers Union being investigated for fraud and embezzlement have long-standing ties to D.C. political and labor figures.
Gwendolyn M. Hemphill, the union's former aide to the president, and James O. Baxter II, the union's former treasurer, both worked in the city government's labor-relations office and served as union representatives to that office. Mr. Baxter worked in both positions simultaneously, according to federal records.
Mrs. Hemphill garnered labor support for Mayor Anthony A. Williams' first run for office, in 1998, and became a part of his inner circle, serving as co-chairman of his re-election campaign. She resigned last year after the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics found thousands of forgeries among the mayor's nominating petitions. This month she resigned as executive director of the D.C. Democratic State Committee.
In 1997, Mayor Marion Barry hired Mr. Baxter as director of the D.C. Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining, a position he kept during the first two years of the Williams administration while serving as the teachers union treasurer. Mayoral spokesman Tony Bullock described the arrangement as a conflict of interest yesterday.
After Mr. Baxter resigned his city job in 2000, nearly all of his staff in the office was replaced.
Mrs. Hemphill and Mr. Baxter, along with former union President Barbara A. Bullock, are at the center of a federal investigation into accusations of fraud and embezzlement from the teachers union. In a federal lawsuit, the American Federation of Teachers, the union's parent group, has accused the trio and others of embezzling more than $5 million from union accounts since 1994.
The FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the Labor Department and the D.C. inspector general are investigating charges that the three stole funds. The inquiry began after the federation audited the local's books in response to complaints about members being overcharged on dues. Last month federal agents raided the homes of the former union officials and their relatives, seizing thousands of dollars worth of luxury items and financial documents.
No charges have been filed in the investigation, and the three former officials have denied any wrongdoing.
Mrs. Hemphill recently resigned her post as a member of the Employee Appeals Board. Mr. Williams had appointed her to a six-year term on that board in 2000.
Her husband, Lawrence, has worked for the city for 20 years and served as director of the Office of the Public Advocate during the first Williams administration.
This month Mr. Williams suspended Mr. Hemphill as director of the Office on Community Outreach in light of the federal investigation of his wife. He was placed on administrative leave and as of yesterday was no longer on the city's payroll.
The Hemphills' son-in-law, Michael Martin, works in the Office on HIV and AIDS in the D.C. Department of Health. He has been implicated in an FBI affidavit in the union scandal, and the D.C. Inspector General's Office is conducting a financial review of his office at the request of Mr. Williams.
Meanwhile, Charles F. Holman III, former director of the Office on Human Rights, has filed a lawsuit saying he was "pressured by Miss Bullock" to extend a contract worth more than $290,000 to the law firm of Curtis Lewis & Associates to handle a backlog of cases in his office without a competitive process.
Mr. Holman says he was fired when he complained about the contract and Mr. Lewis' work.
Mr. Lewis is Mr. Baxter's brother and had worked on behalf of the union, records show. The Washington Times first reported the Holman lawsuit in September.
Mr. Williams told WUSA-TV (Channel 9) yesterday that the teachers union scandal has tainted his administration.


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