AFT Auditors Say $5 Million Missing from DC Teachers Union. The American Federation of Teachers filed a racketeering lawsuit against former Washington Teachers Union (WTU) President Barbara Bullock and others in what the union now claims was an illegal diversion of at least $5 million in members’ dues. In support of its suit, AFT released the report of the forensic investigators it hired to follow the WTU money trail.
The Washington Post also reported that the AFT has begun the process of establishing an “administratorship” over WTU, which would place AFT in control of the local union’s day-to-day operations. At the same time, a rank-and-file proposal to dissolve the WTU executive board will be issued at the next board meeting on January 27. The Post editorial page called the new estimate of misappropriation “breathtaking” and asked the question on everyone’s mind: “How could such an allegedly massive misappropriation of union funds occur over such a long period of time and under the noses of so many people, including the union’s board of directors, the union’s members and the American Federation of Teachers, which is the parent organization?”
The AFT audit revealed details unmentioned even in the FBI affidavit:
* The $144 per member dues overcharge last summer – the event that led to the unraveling of the conspiracy – was an attempt by Bullock to pay off the delinquent AFT national dues WTU owed for at least two years. AFT reported receiving payment of the delinquent dues by July 2002. This also explains why Bullock proposed that the members apply the overcharge to future dues, rather than simply reimburse them… the money has already been sent to AFT.
* Interim WTU President Esther Hankerson’s name was apparently forged on several questionable checks. Hankerson says the bank notified her about one of these and she confronted Bullock (though she told the bank to honor the check). She says Bullock admitted to the deed and said she would reimburse the money, but Hankerson took no further action.
* The AFT audit suggests Bullock and Company may have had a confederate at the bank at which many of the checks were cashed, since scores of them had the names of legitimate payees crossed out and the name of Bullock’s chauffeur written in, yet the bank cashed each one without incident.
* Leroy Holmes, Bullock’s chauffeur, believed his salary to be $105,000, though this amount was greater than that received by any other WTU employee, except for Bullock.
* The auditors confirmed the obvious. The union’s LM-2 report to the U.S. Department of Labor “does not accurately depict the true nature and amount of the transactions that we discovered during our investigation.” Also, the accountant who helped prepare and file the report did so knowing they “were not accurate and, at a minimum, were grossly misleading.” The auditors could locate only one LM-2, though they are supposed to be filed annually.
* Two political contributions were made with WTU dues, a violation of federal law. One, of $9,000, went the Democratic National Committee, the other, of $2,000, went to Hillary Clinton’s 2000 election campaign. Both returned the money when informed of its origin by AFT.
AFT believes the WTU scandal to be an aberration, and it may well be. There may not be other local AFT officials with $13,000 plasma TVs and Tiffany silverware. But the lack of oversight, whistleblowing, accountability, or even routine reporting, displayed by union officials, staff, staff unions, and elected representatives over a six-year period cannot be dismissed as an aberration. It too often is standard operating procedure, making cases like that of WTU not only predictable, but likely.