more on "squeaky clean" mayor
- D.C. Report Fleshes Out Williams's Fundraising
Aides Ignored Laws In Soliciting Cash, Investigation
By Yolanda Woodlee and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, April 1, 2002; Page B01
From the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney, a vexed Mayor
Anthony A. Williams called a top aide to say he was
"upset" that the District had not yet raised money to
arrange a reception honoring a D.C. native who had just
won a bronze medal in boxing.
"Figure something out," the aide said Williams told him.
Eventually, that aide, deputy chief of staff Mark Jones,
and other staffers found the money to fete bantamweight
Clarence Vinson at MCI Center in November 2000. They
lined up help and donations from boxing promoter Rock
Newman, MCI owner Abe Pollin, the D.C. Sports and
Entertainment Commission and the Washington-Baltimore
Regional 2012 Coalition.
The gesture, though well intentioned, was a violation of
city gift rules because the contributions were not
reported and all funds went directly to pay vendors.
This kind of fundraising, and the use of nonprofit
corporations by the mayor's staff to host a series of
mayoral events, was the subject of a year-long
investigation, the results of which were released last
week by D.C. Inspector General Charles C. Maddox.
The investigative report paints a picture of mayoral
aides scrambling to raise $1.5 million, mostly from city
contractors, ignoring city laws and ethics codes,
primarily toward the goal of showcasing their boss.
Some aides worked virtually full time on these efforts,
the report says, and controlled the flow of money among
several nonprofit groups. Sometimes Williams pushed his
aides to raise money, as the Sydney phone call
illustrates, and sometimes aides rushed to please him.
Williams (D) had maintained through the past year, when
the fundraising activities were being reported in the
media, that he knew little about the day-to-day details
of his aides' efforts. But Maddox said he found that
difficult to believe, based on the mayor's actions and
Maddox said his investigation did not find evidence of
"a campaign of institutional corruption" to enrich the
mayor or his employees. Williams has emphasized that
statement since the report's release, but he
acknowledged that the investigation "reflects poorly on
me" because "I allowed or created an environment where
there were not management controls."
The release of the 514-page report was much anticipated
in political circles. Some critics said the inspector
general took far too long to finish it, but Maddox said
he faced numerous obstacles. Both donors and city
employees were reluctant to cooperate. Twenty-nine
people refused to be interviewed, and 23 obtained
lawyers before talking to investigators. The mayor was
accompanied by three attorneys.
Investigators were troubled that Jones, the former
deputy chief of staff, controlled the bank account of
the Church Association for Community Services, a private
nonprofit group. District law prohibits government
officials from having such power over nonprofit groups.
As account treasurer,Jones often had the Rev. Frank
Tucker, the president of the church organization, sign
over blank checks to him, and he passed money through
the account for mayoral expenses. Tucker also arranged,
at Jones's request, to wire $1,500 for former chief of
staff Abdusalam Omer's use at the Democratic National
Convention in Los Angeles, the report says.
Mayoral aides and supporters instructed donors to write
checks out to "CACS," though their contributions had
nothing to do with the church group's charitable
purposes. Tucker told Maddox that his group was at the
time relying on the mayor's support for a $14 million
housing rehabilitation effort and that he was concerned
that not helping Jones might jeopardize the project.
Maddox referred these incidents and evidence of a
conflict of interest to the U.S. attorney's office for
possible criminal charges.
The 13-month investigation reveals that in 1999 and
2000, mayoral aides were trying to raise money quickly
for many different projects, and often lacked the legal
vehicles to do so. Sometimes, the mayor's staff treated
Jones and Darlene Taylor, the mayor's former director
for intergovernmental affairs, pushed businesses for
quick cash to pay the $28,000 bill for a September 2000
reception the mayor hosted at BET on Jazz, a now-closed
downtown restaurant, for the Congressional Black Caucus.
Taylor made repeated telephone calls to Bank of America
before an executive agreed to write a check for $5,000.
The executive said "she felt pressured" to give, the
When the event fell $3,000 short, Jones leaned on
Leonard Manning, chief executive of Lottery Technology
Enterprises, which had a sole-source contract to process
the city's lottery tickets. Manning said he was "tapped
out," but Jones was persistent. Eventually, Manning
agreed to make a $3,000 loan after Jones promised that
the city would repay it.
The inspector general has referred this case to the
city's Office of Campaign Finance and office of the
corporation counsel to determine whether finance laws
and ethics rules were broken.
In some instances, mayoral aides shifted money between
different nonprofit groups.
In December 2000, donors were asked to host a mayoral
Christmas party for foster care children, yet much of
the money was used for other purposes, including a
holiday reception for mayoral supporters.
Jones treated some nonprofit accounts as "private
funding vehicles," the report says, includingFor the
Kids, the nonprofit group that was supposed to host the
children's party; the Urban Assistance Fund; and CACS.
He moved money among them without telling donors or
Some money raised in the name of civic good went to pay
an 85-year-old woman, Carol Parris, to drive the mayor's
mother around town as well as to buy airline tickets for
Jones and Omer to attend the Democratic National
"Donors were given a variety of reasons why they were
being solicited, none of which had anything to do with
the [purposes]," the report says.
Investigators found that, although city rules prohibit
D.C. employees from soliciting anything of value from
people doing business with or regulated by the District,
that's who mayoral aides sought out to pay for events.
"Almost everyone contacted by Jones and members of his
staff had such a business interest with the District
government," the report says.
None of the $1.5 million raised for nine mayoral events
was deposited in the D.C. treasury, recorded or
accounted for, or open to public review, as is required.
The report says that a core group of top mayoral aides
were working entirely on government time to raise money
and coordinate events to showcase the mayor and the
District. Their actions violated the District code of
conduct, and some employees also appear to have violated
the federal Hatch Act, which prohibits government
employees from engaging in political activity during
working hours or on government property.
Sandy McCall, former special assistant to the mayor,
spent almost every hour of his workday putting together
a series of millennium celebrations and lining up donors
and contractors. Jones was the mayor's go-to person for
almost every other event Williams wanted to host. Omer
often intervened to help both men.
"The report tells you just how much time that government
employees spent on these extraordinary activities," said
Dorothy Brizill, an activist who runs a District
watchdog Web site. "And when you're doing that, you
can't be doing the people's business."
The inspector general's report says that Williams took
an active role in fundraising, beginning with his effort
to put together the citywide millennium celebration.
In July 1999, less than six months from the events, the
mayor reached out to America Online co-founder James V.
Kimsey for help to pay for the two-day bash that was
expected to cost more than $1 million.
"Your name at the top of the masthead could cut three
months off a timetable that should have started two
years ago," Williams wrote. " . . . No one knows better
how to do something like this just the right way."
Kimsey decided to head the city's bicentennial
committee, chipped in $100,000 and got business
associates to ante up $300,000 more. Yet in the fall of
1999, top aides feared that time was running out to plan
and raise cash. McCall stressed to Kimsey that the
celebration would be "hopelessly delayed" by the
District's procurement process, so they skirted city
contracting rules, the report says.
"They were good intentions by a well-intentioned mayor,"
McCall said of the fundraising. "No one ever told us
that anything was illegal."
Williams tried again to raise money for an event in the
spring of 2000. He persuaded a top official of Lockheed
Martin IMS, a city contractor, to give $29,000 for
mayoral receptions at the Democratic and Republican
national conventions. The donation was not reported, in
violation of city gift rules and possibly campaign
finance laws, the report says.
The mayor said he saw nothing wrong because there was
"no attempt to hide this fact," he said. "It was clear
to everyone present that Lockheed was the sponsor. I
must have thanked them 10 times or more."
© 2002 The Washington Post Company