- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Financial troubles at the Washington Teachers Union began before three ex-officials now on trial for embezzlement became union officers, former union President Barbara A. Bullock testified yesterday in U.S. District Court.

Bullock, who is serving nine years in prison for embezzlement, told the court that about $400,000 was gone from the union treasury when she took over as president in 1994.

“They never discovered what happened to the money,” she testified.

WTU also owed $600,000 to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). In 1995, WTU borrowed money to pay the national union, Bullock said.

Bullock made those statements during her third day of testimony in the trial of 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 pleaded guilty in 2003 to using WTU credit cards and charging an estimated $1.2 million on personal items including mink coats, wigs, silverware, crystal and clothes. Bullock could see her sentence reduced because of her testimony.

Yesterday, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Cooper concluded questioning Bullock, who had been testifying openly and sometimes smiling.

Under cross-examination by Mrs. Hemphill’s attorney, Deborah St. Jean, Bullock sometimes argued and answered angrily. During bench conferences, she would place her forehead into her left hand.

Bullock, who testified previously that she allowed Mrs. Hemphill to use a rubber stamp of her signature on checks, acknowledged that she had permitted the use of the rubber stamp before Mrs. Hemphill was hired.

Bullock identified nine checks totaling more than $85,479 to the union’s American Express card for personal bills in early 1996. Those checks included Bullock’s signature stamp.

Union treasury balances were so uncertain that union employees would wait until teachers’ payroll dues were deposited before they would cash their paychecks, Bullock said.

Although Mrs. Hemphill had been a labor liaison to then-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, Bullock said “not in the least” did she think Mrs. Hemphill would be helpful in the union’s labor negotiations.

The financial situation worsened when a union accountant was out sick for six months. Financial accounts piled up on his desk and debts, including taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, went unpaid, Bullock testified.

Mrs. Hemphill prepared a memo to resolve the problem “because we have to do something because we don’t want the IRS coming to question the executive board,” Bullock said. But, Bullock said she didn’t read the memo; she only signed it.

Bullock admitted she forged the signatures of union members on petitions for WTU delegates to attend AFT’s semiannual convention.

Some checks paid for chauffeurs to take Bullock grocery shopping, gift buying, on family vacations and to Baltimore. Bullock said Mrs. Hemphill’s brother-in-law, Michael Martin, often drove her around and helped out in the union office.

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