- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Washington Teachers’ Union has agreed to allow federal monitors to oversee its next election in order to settle a federal investigation that found irregularities in the 2004 and 2005 contests.

The arrangement, disclosed in a settlement filed this week in federal court in the District, comes a year after the U.S. Department of Labor sued the union to overturn election results, citing ineligible voting and members who never received ballots.

“We welcome the supervision,” WTU President George Parker said of the settlement yesterday. “It helps demonstrate to our members that the election is going to be one of integrity. Having the Department of Labor supervise will cut down on any challenges or complaints.”

Under the deal, the union admitted no wrongdoing during its 2004 election and a runoff in 2005. The contests signaled the return to local control for the union for the first time in more than two years. Control was withdrawn after an embezzlement scandal resulted in the ouster and imprisonment of several former top officials.

The 2004 and 2005 elections investigated by federal regulators occurred while the local union was under the control of its parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which has defended its handling of the elections.

According to the Labor Department’s lawsuit, the federal investigation found ineligible voting and instances in which election notices weren’t sent to members.

The violations were common enough to potentially affect the outcome of the election, according to the lawsuit.

The AFT took over control of the local union in the aftermath of the forced resignation of former union President Barbara A. Bullock in 2003. She has been serving a sentence of more than six years in prison since pleading guilty in the theft of nearly $5 million in teacher dues. Several other union officials, including former Treasurer James O. Baxter II, have been sent to prison in the scandal.

The officials elected in the new election must be “installed as soon as practicable” after federal monitors certify the results, according to the settlement.

Officials will begin nominating officers next month. Ballots will be sent in May.

The settlement proposal was filed with U.S. District Court Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan on Monday by union attorney Brenda C. Zwack and Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurie Weinstein. It states that both sides agreed to the deal to resolve their differences “without the necessity of further litigation.”

The agreement also calls for the union to provide the Labor Department with a list of names and addresses of all current members.

Mr. Parker said he is glad the court case is over.

“It allows us to move on and focus on more pressing issues,” he said.

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