- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2000

The District of Columbia Office of Campaign Finance expects to announce its findings Friday on whether Mayor Anthony A. Williams skirted city personnel regulations by using city employees to campaign for a favorable vote on the composition of the school board.

The decision stems from a complaint that community activist Dorothy Brizill filed last Friday with the board of elections and the campaign-finance office, which began the investigation on Monday.

"I started out to make sure there would be a fair campaign," said Mrs. Brizill, executive director of D.C. Watch.

"In this case, I thought it was important to jump on it right away.

"It's not a level playing field."

Kathy S. Williams, general counsel for the Office of Campaign Finance said the ruling has been expedited because of the June 27 referendum on the creation of a hybrid school board.

At issue is whether the school board should be reduced from 11 to nine members, with the mayor being allowed to appoint four members and five being elected.

Mrs. Brizill's complaint stemmed from a campaign kickoff last Thursday at J.O. Wilson Elementary in Northeast, where some D.C. employees donned green "Vote Yes on June 27, Accountability Now!" stickers on their clothes and distributed campaign literature.

The Williams administration contends that the mayor and employees were following the guidelines set forth by the D.C. Corporation Counsel's office. The Corporation Counsel's office told administration officials that employees could take part in the campaign because it is a nonpartisan issues election as long as it didn't affect their government duties.

In an additional complaint, Mrs. Brizill charged that mayoral staffers had started working on campaign strategy in early May "as part of their normal work duties." She also filed a copy of a U.S. District Court ruling that the use of government resources for "one-sided electioneering" violates the First and Fifth Amendments.

Abdusalam Omer, the mayor's chief of staff, said the administration will work to comply with whatever the recommendation is made by the campaign-finance office.

This is the second time Mr. Williams has been investigated by the campaign-finance office since taking office.

Last July, Mr. Williams was fined $1,000 by the campaign-finance office for not disclosing soon enough income he received when he was campaigning for mayor during the summer of 1998.

He received a total of $40,000 from Arthur Andersen & Co. and NationsBank for light-duty consulting work during the campaign.

The city requires such arrangements to be disclosed within 30 days. Mr. Williams filed the standard conflict-of-interest papers on July 17, 1998, but failed to amend them until April 1999.

Although both companies have had lucrative contracts with the city, the mayor insisted the consulting arrangements were legal and did not carry expectations of more city contracts.

Neither deal entailed much work.

Over the weekend, four D.C. employees including mayoral staffers took leave for the next two weeks to join the New School Leadership Committee's new offices at 1443 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.

Administration officials said the staffers left so they could stay focused on the issues of the referendum, without questions of impropriety.

Mark Jones, the mayor's deputy chief of staff for external relations, and Charles Onwuche, technology program manager, Office of the Chief Technology Officer, are on annual leave.

Eric Foster, special assistant for federal, congressional and local affairs, Office of Intergovernmental Relations; and Dan Leistikow, speechwriter in the mayor's Office of Communications, are taking unpaid leave.

"In essence, this may be chapter one, but that does not conclude the issue," Mrs. Brizill said.

She claims government employees and resources are still being used, noting that two city vehicles were parked outside the Southeast headquarters during a strategy meeting Tuesday evening.

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