Teaching Profession

D.C. Union Leader Sentenced To Nine-Year Prison Term

By Julie Blair — February 11, 2004 2 min read
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As Barbara A. Bullock prepares to serve nine years in federal prison for her crimes against the Washington Teachers Union, members say they are forging ahead with the rebuilding of the 5,000-member organization.

The former president of the District of Columbia teachers’ group, who admitted to embezzling $4.6 million from union coffers from 1995 to 2002 and was sentenced late last month, is required to pay the money back, said Channing Phillips, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr. After she completes her term, the 65-year-old must spend three years under supervised release and complete 3,000 hours of community service, Mr. Phillips added.

Barbara A. Bullock

Ms. Bullock pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and mail fraud in October. (“D.C. Union Leader Admits to Bilking Funds,” Oct. 15, 2003.)

Her lawyer did not return a call for comment last week.

Ms. Bullock told the judge at her Jan. 30 sentencing hearing that she was “deeply remorseful,” according to The Washington Post. She added that she was afflicted with bipolar disorder, and in part blamed that condition for perpetuating her high- class shopping habit. She spent much of the money she stole from the WTU on designer clothing and furs.

Educators in the nation’s capital said they had little sympathy for what they saw as an excuse and a pattern of betrayal. “Consequences are consequences,” said William F. Rope, who teaches 3rd grade at H.D. Cooke Elementary School. “She’s the past now.”

Some See Inequity

But other teachers in the city suggested that Ms. Bullock was not treated fairly in comparison with other white-collar criminals.

For example, the longtime leader of United Teachers of Dade in Miami, Pat L. Tornillo Jr., was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison after pleading guilty last year to defrauding a union and making false statements on his tax returns. He is also required to repay the $650,000 he stole from the union and pay a fine.

“The inequity bothers me,” said Elizabeth A. Davis, who teaches technology at John Philip Sousa Middle School in Washington. “I really hesitate to say it is a fair sentence.”

Many educators in the city, though, say they are eager to move on with union work and to regain control of their local union, which was taken over by the American Federation of Teachers soon after the scandal broke in 2002. (“Union Local Loses Control of Operations,” Jan. 29, 2003.)

Under federal law, the AFT must return the WTU to local officials’ control within 18 months of that action—this July.

“I think more than anything, [the sentencing] brought one phase to closure,” said George Parker, a math teacher at Eliot Junior High School. “There are so many things to move forward with.”

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