- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2003

A D.C. government employee implicated in the Washington Teachers Union (WTU) scandal has been placed on leave. The employee, Larry Hemphill, is married to Gwen Hemphill, a former WTU official and former chairman of Mayor Williams' reelection campaign. So far, court records allege that the Hemphills, former WTU President Barbara Bullock and others spent more than $2 million in union funds for personal benefit, lavishing themselves with antiques, tailor-made clothing, art and expensive home furnishings. If a federal grand jury has not yet begun scouring the financial records of WTU, we hope it is only because the investigation is ongoing. Evidence of criminal wrongdoing surfaced in the fall, when teachers complained of unexplained huge increases in their union dues. Since then, digging by the FBI and local law-enforcement authorities, as well as union auditors, has uncovered solid evidence of a conspiracy to defraud union members. Surprisingly, not all 5,000 members are willing to be quiet pawns of one of the District's most powerful political forces.

Disgruntled WTU member Nathan Saunders, who teaches at Anacostia High, filed suit against the WTU, its parent organization (the American Federation of Teachers), and former and present union officials, saying he was "swindled" in a string of "prearranged schemes, campaigns of misinformation and conspiracies." Mr. Saunders accuses the defendants with breach of contract, and the WTU and AFT of gross mismanagement, among other things. He has asked U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan for a temporary restraining order regarding his dues. Fearing retaliation and further looting and fraud that might endanger retirement benefits, Mr. Saunders asked Judge Sullivan to order the union to escrow or set aside his dues payments for six months. We applaud Mr. Saunders for his reasonable requests. After all, the D.C. public-school teaching community is tight-lipped its union and its members preferring to let their collective-bargaining powers do most of the talking for public money.

The union, of course, is now speaking through lawyers, who told Judge Sullivan on Tuesday that the WTU must take out a $250,000 loan to reimburse Mr. Saunders and the other teachers, who were overbilled to the tune of $700,000. The lawyers also are trying to convince Judge Sullivan that the union has its financial affairs pretty much in hand. We hope, though, that Judge Sullivan understands that this case is one of right and wrong and victimization. But Big Labor is not the victim. The victims are the individual teachers and the public trust.

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