- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2000

The U.S. Attorney's Office and Washington, D.C. police are investigating whether police union officials have misused union funds, sources familiar with the investigations told The Washington Times.

The investigations of former and current police union officials focus on the administration of Frank Tracy, former chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police Metropolitan Police Labor Committee, the sources said.

At least $80,000 in questionable purchases were charged to a union credit card and checking account, including a stay at a "couples-only" resort in Pennsylvania, shoes from Gentlemen's Jodhpur in Bethesda, Md. and goods from Grandma's Fine Arts Gallery in Maryland, according to documents obtained by The Times.

A criminal inquiry is focusing on several thousand dollars' worth of computers and related equipment purchased with the union's credit card from Circuit City stores, according to sources and documents.

Those computers are missing from the labor committee's office, police sources said.

The labor committee is the union representing officers and sergeants in the Metropolitan Police Department. Mr. Tracy was the head of the union from Oct. 1, 1998, to Sept. 30 this year.

Sgt. Gerald G. Neill, the current chairman of the labor committee, told The Times yesterday he could not comment on the matter.

Sgt. Neill is not a focus of the investigation, sources said.

Channing Phillips, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, confirmed that prosecutors are reviewing the financial irregularities, but he could not discuss who is the subject of the investigation.

The Metropolitan Police Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, generally known as the internal affairs division, also is investigating the matter.

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey confirmed yesterday that internal affairs was looking into the matter, adding the investigation is complete, "but it's probably open and suspended pending the outcome of the audit" of the union's books.

Chief Ramsey said he became aware of the allegations leveled against Mr. Tracy after Sgt. Neill sent a letter outlining problems he uncovered.

The chief was not familiar with specific instances of questionable purchases described in documents.

The officials connected to the questionable purchases on credit-card receipts and other records served under Mr. Tracy from October of 1998 to Sept. 30 this year. They are:

• Mr. Tracy, who retired from the force and now works on "cold case" homicides as a consultant. Records attribute the $300 purchase of a stay at the Caesars Cove Haven Resort the "couples-only getaway resort on scenic Lake Wallenpaupack" near Lakeville, Pa. to "the chairman," or Mr. Tracy, in January of last year.

• Officer Tyrone Best, the committee's treasurer under Mr. Tracy who was re-elected in August. Records connect Mr. Best's name with purchases in May of $314.46 from the men's department of the Hecht's store in Marlow Heights, Md., and $219.80 from International Male, a high-end clothing company.

Credit-card statements also connect Mr. Best's name with a $266.86 purchase at Gentlemen's Jodhpur, a shoe store at White Flint Mall in Bethesda in January of last year, and $439.46 for a stay at the Hampton Inn in Landover a 20-minute drive from the District in March of last year.

• Detective Renee Holden, secretary under Mr. Tracy and now the committee's vice chairman. Records connect Detective Holden's name with purchases totaling $1,300 at Grandma's Fine Art Gallery in Fort Washington.

Mr. Tracy denied any wrongdoing yesterday and said he was not familiar with the matter.

"What you're saying is not factual," he told The Times yesterday. "Several people had credit cards. I have no idea" about the expenses listed on the credit-card receipts.

Asked about the hotel resort in Pennsylvania and purchases at Gentleman's Jodhpur shoe store in Bethesda, Mr. Tracy said, "I've never been there."

Asked about an auditor's criticism of the committee's purchasing practices, he said, "I'm not the chairman anymore."

Officer Best and Detective Holden did not return messages left at the union's office yesterday.

Chief Ramsey said he hired Mr. Tracy to work on old homicide cases because of his qualifications and "the fact that somebody made an allegation was not sufficient to not bring him on board."

The case began after an independent accounting agency audited the union's books in November and found a lack of receipts, records and details, according to a letter by auditor Judith Barnhard of the May & Barnhard accounting firm in Bethesda.

The audit, which covered the time period preceding Sept. 30, when Mr. Tracy ended his term, found 29 financial transactions "that require follow-up," such as invoices, receipts or proof of reimbursement.

That prompted Miss Barnhard to broaden her examination into the financial irregularities.

"Given the nature of the items missing, we have expanded our scope to include all credit card statements," Miss Barnhard wrote.

Miss Barnhard told The Times yesterday she could not comment on the audit because of a confidentiality agreement with her client, and then hung up.

In a Nov. 7 letter from May & Barnhard to the union, Miss Barnhard requested more information including credit-card statements, supporting details and canceled checks about 13 other purchases.

Miss Barnhard also made several recommendations to prevent other problems.

"We strongly encourage the IMMEDIATE cancellation of ALL credit cards and writing checks out to 'cash,' " Miss Barnhard wrote. "We will discuss appropriate internal controls for handling of these items once the audit is finished."

"In the meantime, authorized expenditures should be charged on the individual's personal credit card and expense reports submitted, with all supporting receipts, for reimbursement," she wrote.

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