- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2005

The former president of the Washington Teachers Union yesterday testified how she misspent more than $1 million of union dues on a mink coat, a crate full of silverware, a silver champagne cooler and other personal extravagances.

A slow-moving and unrepentant Barbara A. Bullock said, “It surprised me when I first heard” that her credit-card expenditures totaled about $1.2 million.

“Now that I see the records, I’m not surprised,” Bullock said in U.S. District Court.

Bullock, who is serving a nine-year prison term for embezzlement, testified against three of her former officers.

Former office manager Gwendolyn M. Hemphill and former Treasurer James O. Baxter II are charged with conspiracy and aiding and abetting in the theft of nearly $5 million from the teachers union from the late 1990s until 2002.

Former union accountant James Goosby is on trial on charges of helping hide the thefts by filing phony financial reports.

Bullock, who pleaded guilty in 2003, could see her sentence reduced because of her testimony.

Dressed in flowing black jacket and ankle-length dress, Bullock used a cane as she walked into court yesterday and crept into the witness box. She wore white tennis shoes, and her hair was fluffed about an often-unsmiling face.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Cooper asked her to identify Mrs. Hemphill and Mr. Baxter.

“Oh yes, I see her,” Bullock said after asking to stand up to look around the courtroom. Then she spotted Mr. Baxter: “I know him well, but my eyesight is bad.”

Bullock, who is in her mid- to late 60s, was not asked to and did not identify Mr. Goosby.

Prosecuting assistants brought three expensive items into court, which Bullock identified as her purchases on the union’s American Express credit card.

“I think $50,000,” she said when asked the cost of silverware from a New Orleans shop that was shipped to Mrs. Hemphill’s home.

Mr. Cooper asked her the cost of the silver champagne cooler, and Bullock said she didn’t know. When asked if she cared, she replied, “Not really.”

“It’s a little tarnished, but I do recognize it,” she said with a chuckle. “I used it as a vase.”

Bullock said she bought the mink coat when she was on a trip to Alaska with retired teachers because coats “are cheaper there.” The coat, which extends to her calves, was especially made for her from male mink furs “because I’m tall,” she said.

How much did it cost? Mr. Cooper asked.

“It could have been $40,” she replied. “It could have been $50.”

“More than $10,000?” the prosecutor asked, to which Bullock agreed that the cost might have been as much as $50,000.

“I like clothes. I like jewelry. I like crystal. I like everything else,” she said, adding that she didn’t care about the costs.

“I didn’t have any real concern,” Bullock said, “[but] I didn’t want anybody to know.”

She testified “to be honest with you, that never crossed my mind” that union members might object.

She said Mr. Baxter and Mrs. Hemphill also used the union credit card for personal purchases, including a caterer for the wedding of Mrs. Hemphill’s son, and a mink coat for his fiancee.

Bullock, Mrs. Hemphill and Mr. Baxter also bought tickets to Washington Redskins football games and Washington Wizards basketball games, she said.

“Mrs. Hemphill had to go to the dentist a lot. She was having implants,” said Bullock, explaining that those bills were paid with union funds.

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