- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2003

In her Jan. 15 "Where We Stand" column, a weekly opinion piece that the American Federation of Teachers pays various publications to print, President Sandra Feldman scores an "A" for audacity for criticizing Enron. However, the AFT, which is the parent union for the Washington Teachers Union (WTU), deserves an "F" for its utter failure to fulfill its fiduciary duties on behalf of the 5,000 WTU members.
How dare Mrs. Feldman rage about Enron on Jan. 15 when, on Jan. 16, the AFT announced it was placing the WTU under administratorship for wrongdoing that occurred under the AFT's nose.
This willful see-no-evil routine occurred repeatedly over a six-and-a-half-year period, while the membership's finances were being plundered. That makes one of Mrs. Feldman's assertions all the more laughable. "Putting an [AFT-designated] administrator in to run the daily operations of the WTU," she brazenly argues, "will ensure that the local will have the strong leadership and support needed to overcome the burden inflicted on the union by a few individuals." She then imagines that the AFT's purported rescue will "enable the members to attend confidently to their work of educating children."
Where was the AFT's "strong leadership" when the WTU's officers were helping themselves to $5 million worth of ill-gotten goods financed by looting the WTU treasury?
AFT rules require each local to complete an internal audit every two years. But the WTU had not completed an internal audit since 1995, the year after Barbara Bullock was elected WTU president. Following a very belated AFT audit last summer, the AFT has directly implicated Miss Bullock and other WTU officials in what Mrs. Feldman describes as "massive misappropriation of union funds and the betrayal of the members."
The AFT claims that in August 2002 its financial services department "quickly determined that there were a number of irregular transactions" pervading the WTU's records. No kidding. It's pretty tough to hide more than $5 million in highly questionable transactions that began in 1996. But where was the AFT in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001, when Miss Bullock and others had repeatedly violated the AFT's deadline for performing internal audits? Amazingly, nobody at the AFT, whose national headquarters are in Northwest (the same quadrant as the WTU's offices), took a quick walk over to the WTU offices to verify that no audits had been completed. Even when the WTU fell behind in remitting its dues to the AFT in 2001 and 2002, the AFT didn't suspect any shenanigans.
Only after WTU members complained to the AFT that WTU leaders were overcharging union dues did Mrs. Feldman's crew begin to get the picture. At the AFT's annual convention last summer, the Enron-obsessed Mrs. Feldman said, "Unlike the private sector, public agencies and their employees received systematic monitoring and oversight. And that's a good thing. Just look at Enron." Well, just look at the AFT.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, who is hearing the civil suit filed by a high-school teacher against the WTU leadership, is considering appointing a receiver. He should do so without delay. The AFT had its oversight chance and squandered it.

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