Two close advisers and a fundraiser for D.C. Council member Yvette M. Alexander are paid members of Wal-Mart’s local “consulting team” now promoting a retail outlet in Ward 7, which Ms. Alexander represents, according to the Arkansas-based retailer.
Derek Ford, treasurer for the Democrat’s constituent services fund and her campaign, has been hired by Wal-Mart’s local public relations firm to help the company “better understand the unique challenges that communities are facing and to find ways to work together toward solutions,” company spokesman Steve Restivo said.
In January, Ms. Alexander said she was in favor of Wal-Mart building a store in her ward as a way to stimulate jobs and retail options. But at a recent meeting of community leaders at Kelly Miller Middle School, a community member questioned whether Wal-Mart’s relationships with Mr. Ford, Mr. Rose and Mr. Greene were appropriate in light of their ties to Ms. Alexander, according to people who witnessed the exchange.
“If anyone is getting paid by both Wal-Mart and Ms. Alexander, then one of those payments must be terminated,” Mr. Rom said. “But even if there is no direct conflict of interest, the question is, can she stand in front of her constituents and say these advisers don’t influence her decisions?
“If so, then I don’t see a problem. But if she can’t, then she clearly recognizes that she is putting herself in an ethically dubious position of looking like she has something to hide,” he said. “And even if she can openly address her constituents, she has to understand that political opponents will challenge her as being in the pocket of Wal-Mart.”
Ms. Alexander already faces questions about office space she leased with constituent services funds — space she recently shuttered because of unpaid bills — and about how she has spent the funds she raised to meet the urgent needs of her community, which includes some of the poorest households in the District.
She has spent more than 95 percent of the constituent services funds she raised on consultants, caterers, fundraisers, community events and the cost of maintaining her office, which she also uses as a campaign headquarters, The Washington Times reported Thursday.
One of the consultants is Mr. Ford, who has received more than $8,000 from Ms. Alexander’s constituent services fund since 2007, according to required quarterly reports filed with the Office of Campaign Finance (OCF). In addition, a $1,000 payment from her constituent services fund in October went to an unregistered business whose address is an apartment owned by Mr. Ford.
The retention of Mr. Ford, Mr. Rose and Mr. Greene is part of a broader business strategy by Wal-Mart to improve its image, according to a representative of the Walker Marchant Group, the retailer’s local public relations firm.