- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) has opened an investigation into the use of constituent-services funds by Ward 7 Democrat Yvette Alexander, according to a resident who filed a complaint this month.

Geraldine Washington asked OCF Director Cecily E. Collier-Montgomery on behalf of a group of Ward 7 residents to determine whether Ms. Alexander commingled campaign and constituent-service funds, failed to report and exceeded limits on in-kind donations, accepted reduced rents on a private office in exchange for legislation to benefit her landlord, and benefited personally from funds raised to serve the needy.

Ms. Washington said Tuesday that she received a letter last week from OCF stating that it was initiating an investigation to “determine whether the allegations outlined in my complaint violate any laws and/or regulations under OCF’s jurisdiction.”

“We will see just what they determine,” Ms. Washington said in an email on Tuesday. “I am determined not to let it go.”

Ms. Washington and her colleagues were reacting to reports in The Washington Times that said Ms. Alexander, who represents some of the city’s poorest households, spent less than 5 percent of the more than $120,000 she raised since 2007 to help constituents with urgent needs such as funeral expenses, rent and utilities.

The OCF opened its investigation just two years after Ms. Alexander sponsored a bill to double the amount that council members are allowed to raise for constituent services. The Times‘ review of Ms. Alexander’s quarterly reports filed with OCF showed that she spent the bulk of the money donated by businesses, labor unions, lobbyists and others - more than $69,000 - on catering, consultants, advertising and supplies for community events and fundraisers.

Ms. Alexander, who last year questioned record-keeping practices and called for an audit of the nonprofit group Peaceoholics, has refused to provide records in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Times to explain her use of funds for the poor. Her expenditures include thousands of dollars to her treasurer, Derek Ford, a Wal-Mart consultant who city records show operates an unregistered company that also received constituent-service funds at his Southeast Washington apartment.

Of particular concern, Ms. Washington said, is a private office condominium leased by Ms. Alexander from politically connected developer and former Ward 7 council member H.R. Crawford, which she used for campaign and constituent-services purposes.

Ms. Alexander closed the office in February after her telephone was cut off for an unpaid $5,388 bill. Council records show she introduced legislation in 2009 that would allow the city to seize and redevelop properties surrounding the office - a deal that would have benefited Mr. Crawford, who does business with the city. She later withdrew the bill.

Campaign finance and constituent-service-fund reports show Ms. Alexander paid $49,200 to Mr. Crawford’s real estate company from April 2007 to Nov. 3, 2010. The lease was terminated in January, and a September email from Mr. Crawford’s office to Ms. Alexander’s office shows the council member owed back rent.

Mr. Crawford told The Times in March that he charged Ms. Alexander $1,200 a month during campaign season and $950 a month when she used the space as a constituent-service office. Ms. Alexander’s constituent-service-fund report shows she paid monthly rent in increments of $950 and $1,200 in recent years.

D.C. law prohibits the use of constituent-service funds for campaign purposes.

OCF officials did not respond to calls for comment. Ms. Alexander did not return calls.