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Funds for D.C.’s needy go elsewhere
Alexander gives 5% to her ward
Question of the Day
“Today marks one week since I requested information that should be readily available to your constituents or the public,” Ms. Pinckney-Hackett wrote in the Feb. 23 e-mail. “This delay gives the appearance that you are ‘STONEWALLING’ as opposed to restoring the public trust.”
Villareal Johnson, chairman of the Ward 7A Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said, “It’s troubling that she seems unwilling to cooperate. As elected officials, we have to be accountable to our constituents. They are entitled to information. They have the right to be upset when they don’t get it.
John Hoellen, the D.C. Council’s general counsel, said he is trying to determine whether any records exist supporting the expenditures and whether they should be released under the FOIA, adding they were “not necessarily council records.”
The constituent services program enables council members to hold fundraisers and raise up to $80,000 a year to help residents in need and host community activities. That limit was doubled in 2009 as a result of legislation sponsored by Ms. Alexander.
The fundraisers often attract donors with business before the city, similar to campaign fundraisers but with an important distinction: Excess campaign funds can be rolled into constituent services accounts, but constituent services funds may not be used for campaign activities.
D.C. law requires council members to keep detailed records of all expenditures of constituent services funds, including receipts and invoices, for three years from the date they file their reports to the OCF. But the OCF says it requires council members to produce receipts only when it asks for them or when a random audit is conducted.
“Generally, we take them at their word,” said S. Wesley Williams III, the OCF’s public affairs officer.
Available on request
With the exception of Ms. Alexander, council offices have been willing to describe their record-keeping procedures. Many said they make detailed information available to the public on request.
“We keep more detailed receipts of expenditures in our files here at the office,” said Charles Allen, chief of staff for Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, in an e-mail. “I’d be happy to work with you if there’s something specific you’d like to review.”
Benjamin Young, chief of staff for David Catania, at-large independent, and Denise Tolliver, chief of staff for Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, also offered to make their records available.
“The receipts and backup are available for inspection at the office,” Ms. Tolliver said.
Ms. Alexander’s office has received six requests for further information from the OCF in recent years, said Mr. Williams, declining to elaborate. City records show the OCF audited Ms. Alexander’s office in 2009 and found discrepancies between bank records and amounts reported, an unreported expenditure and expenditures that did not have proper documentation.
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About the Author
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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