Top officials of the American Federation of Teachers yesterday initiated the process of taking over day-to-day operations of the Washington Teachers' Union because of the alleged theft of more than $2 million by three former local union officers and others.
A closed-door hearing will be held tomorrow, when officials of the Washington Teachers' Union are expected to testify. The national union's 40-member governing board could vote on the takeover at a meeting next week, said AFT spokesman Alex Wohl.
If the national union forcibly placed the 5,000-member D.C. union under an "administratorship," dissolving the local leadership, it would be the first time the parent union had taken such a step since its founding in 1917. The purpose would be to restore the union's financial stability and service to its members, Wohl said.
The FBI is investigating allegations that former Washington Teachers' Union president Barbara A. Bullock, her assistant, Gwendolyn M. Hemphill, and former treasurer James O. Baxter II improperly used union money. No charges have been filed. Bullock and Hemphill resigned in the fall, and Baxter was forced to step aside.
Esther S. Hankerson, the general vice president under Bullock, has been serving as interim president, and the union's executive board has remained in place. Through a spokesman, Hankerson declined to comment yesterday.
The three top AFT officials -- President Sandra Feldman, Vice President Nat LaCour and Secretary-Treasurer Edward McElroy -- called for an administratorship, Wohl said, adding that the situation "calls for something drastic and unprecedented."
Elnora C. Oxendine, a member of the local union's 21-member executive board, said local leaders should remain in power because they "know what to do."
Staff writer Valerie Strauss contributed to this report.