Residents of Ward 7 noticed recently that the constituent services office of D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander in Southeast has been closed, and the telephone is temporarily out of service.
That's because she has terminated her office's lease on a condominium at the 2524 Pennsylvania Ave. address, which as of Tuesday morning was more than $5,000 in arrears to Verizon for unpaid phone bills.
On Monday, Ms. Alexander denied that her constituent services office had any outstanding financial obligations. She said she is waiting to move the office into a rent-free space opening up at the end of February in a Department of Employment Services building in her ward.
On Tuesday, Ms. Alexander acknowledged having trouble in the past making rent payments but denied that had anything to do with her terminating the lease on the condo she has occupied for at least three years, which she also has used as her campaign headquarters. The building is owned by former D.C. Council member H.R. Crawford, a developer and property manager who also represents the District on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board.
Ms. Alexander added that the demands of her constituents for assistance ranging from funeral costs to medical bills to groceries exceed the capacity of her constituent services fund. By a law she said she helped to sponsor, council members are allowed to raise no more than $80,000 a year for constituent services.
"My landlord has been amenable to our situation because he knows that the rent comes out of our constituent services fund," she said Tuesday. "But we've never been more than two or three months behind. You can't give money that you don't have."
D.C. Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) records show that Ms. Alexander's constituent services fund had $1,107.85 cash on hand at the end of October. Her office failed to file its Jan. 1 report and the matter has been referred to the office of the general counsel for an informal hearing, according to the OCF.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ms. Alexander said her office's Verizon bill for the "Yvette for Ward 7 City Council" telephone account at 2524 Pennsylvania Ave. was paid through January. She denied the exact amount of her office's outstanding Jan. 20 phone bill that was confirmed with Verizon by The Washington Times as of Tuesday morning: $5,388.68.
"No way," the council member said. "That's outrageous. It's never been that exorbitant."
Ms. Alexander declined to share with The Times a copy of her Jan. 20 phone bill.
Mr. Crawford confirmed that Ms. Alexander's constituent services office had been a tenant of his. OCF records show that Ms. Alexander began paying rent from her constituent services fund in September 2007 in the amount of $1,200 a month. The rent was reduced to $950 a month, records show.
Mr. Crawford declined to comment on Ms. Alexander's rent history at his property.
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