Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

more on "squeaky clean" mayor

Expand Messages
  • David McIntire
    D.C. Report Fleshes Out Williams s Fundraising Aides Ignored Laws In Soliciting Cash, Investigation Finds By Yolanda Woodlee and Carol D. Leonnig Washington
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2002
    • 0 Attachment
      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
      staff interviews.

      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
      donors aggressively.

      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
      report says.

      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
      nonprofit leaders.

      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
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.