- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

The American Federation of Teachers introduced its newly appointed administrator for the Washington Teachers Union yesterday.
George C. Springer, who had served as the Northeast regional director for the AFT, talked about his plans for the union at a press conference. Mr. Springer, who took over the post last week, joked about the "short-lived honeymoon" that he thought "would last longer" than the time it took him to walk from the door to the podium.
"As administrator, my role will be to restore and ensure the smooth operation and the integrity of the Washington Teachers Union, and I intend to get back to the business of supporting educators," Mr. Springer said.
He said he is committed to fixing what is broken in the union's structure and procedures.
In a unanimous vote by its executive council last week, the AFT took over the local. The national union released a forensic audit two weeks ago showing that more than $5 million had been misappropriated through unsanctioned credit card charges and checks written out to top officials and staffers of the local.
AFT Secretary Treasurer Edward J. McElroy said he hoped Mr. Springer would restore confidence among the 5,000 members of the local.
He said the local union's constitution has been suspended and all of the executive board members removed from office. A new constitution will have to be drawn up, Mr. McElroy said, "but Mr. Springer will determine when that will be."
The parent group filed a federal lawsuit against former union President Barbara A. Bullock; her assistant, Gwendolyn M. Hemphill; and former Treasurer James O. Baxter II, accusing them of embezzling the funds to purchase luxury items. The three are the subject of a federal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District.
No charges have been filed in the federal investigation, and the three have denied any wrongdoing.
Mr. Springer spent most of the day meeting with the local's former interim President Esther S. Hankerson. The two then met with the Labor-Management Partnership Council of the D.C. Public Schools. He said he will meet Monday with building representatives of the union.
Some teachers scoffed at Mr. Springer's decision to cancel the monthly meeting scheduled last night. And two teachers in attendance were disgusted at the news that he would be working to get caught up by meeting with the former union leadership before talking with the general membership.
"The teachers are circulating a recall petition to the members to recall them and Esther because we don't trust her. Why is she still here and why meet with her first?" said Crystal Sylvia, a social worker at Alice Deal Junior High School.
Mr. Springer said he could only do so much in his first day and that based on what he knew of past membership meetings the meetings often did not muster the quorum requirement of 100 teachers that it was inappropriate to meet with the membership in that setting.
"I want to reach out to all the members," he said. To meet with the 5,000 members, I may need a different process than the one we have been pursuing in the past," Mr. Springer said.
He said it is necessary to meet with Mrs. Hankerson because she has been in control of the union for the past three months.
Mr. Springer could not say when he would meet with the union members or whether it would be collectively or in groups.
"The meeting will happen shortly, and the members will find they are getting more communication than ever before," he said.


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