A CAREFUL READING of the FBI affidavit, the American Federation of Teachers lawsuit and the U.S. attorney's charging document in connection with the alleged embezzlement at the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) raises the possibility that more than luxury clothing, electronic equipment, meals, entertainment and the like were bought with union funds. Each of the documents alleges that WTU credit cards were used by the union's former president, treasurer and executive assistant to make personal, unauthorized and un-reimbursed expenditures to buy goods and services for themselves. The FBI search of their homes was conducted, in part, to recover those alleged ill-gotten gains. But the documents also indicate that the three former union officials wrote WTU checks for several thousands of dollars at a time, ultimately exceeding more than $1 million. At issue is how and on whom and what were those funds spent.
Such questions are very much on the minds of federal prosecutors, and for understandable reasons. The Post recently reported an account from Philip Pannell, chairman of the Ward 8 Democratic Committee, who said that after requesting help for his reelection campaign from Kelvin J. Robinson, the mayor's chief of staff, he received an envelope containing $2,500 in cash. Mr. Pannell said the payment was arranged by the union's executive assistant at the time, Gwendolyn M. Hemphill, who also served as co-chairman of Mayor Anthony A. Williams's reelection campaign. Both Mr. Robinson and Mrs. Hemphill deny Mr. Pannell's account, but obviously this is the kind of accusation that attracts the prosecution's attention.
Mr. Robinson and Mrs. Hemphill also figure prominently in another story of WTU funds working their way into political activities involving the mayor. Mrs. Hemphill alleges that Mr. Robinson asked her to pay a $2,000 bill for T-shirts for the Democratic National Convention and that she paid the bill with WTU funds because that is what Mr. Robinson expected. He denies that, stating instead that he thought the payment would come from the mayor's reelection campaign funds.
Questions concerning the role of unreported Washington Teachers' Union money in the campaign activities and constituent services of elected city officials are high on the agenda of prosecutors. Where the money stopped, nobody knows at this point. But investigators are on the trail, and all signs indicate that this story is far from over.