- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2001

The D.C. Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is investigating fund-raising activities by high-level Williams appointees. One of the officials is Abdusalam Omer, Mayor Williams chief of staff who leaves office this week, and another is Mark A. Jones, former deputy chief of staff, who is on leave without pay. Mr. Jones is accused of a number of questionable activities, including raising funds for a Williams inaugural affair, a millennium celebration and a prayer breakfast. The OIG is also tracing a money trail involving Mr. Omer, Mr. Jones and a private driver for the mayors mother, Virginia Williams. That his mother had a driver was hardly news to the mayor. That thousands of dollars were being passed from his most trusted advisers into that drivers hands, however, is a shocker. So is the fact that the OIG is uncovering such details at the mayors request.

Mayor Williams requested the probe more than two months ago, after Mr. Jones failed to satisfy the mayor´s deadline to fully disclosure his fund-raising details by Feb. 6. "By the end of the day," Jonetta Rose Barras reported in the Washington City Paper´s Feb. 9 Loose Lips column, "the mayor made a formal request to the inspector general, Charles Maddox, to review the fund-raising efforts that had taken place in his name. 'This administration is committed to meeting the high ethical standards the citizens of this city expect and deserve,´ Williams wrote to Maddox." The probe is certainly warranted -especially for a mayor whose middle name is "Accountability."

The question was what to do with Mr. Jones, who was asked to take a leave of absence. According to Miss Barras, Mr. Jones "resisted, saying he wanted to seek legal advice." Mr. Jones' fund-raising, she reported, involved "a network of little-known nonprofit organizations" and "key players in the religious community, including the Rev. Frank Tucker, pastor of first Baptist Church in Northeast on Jones´ behalf." Mr. Tucker, meanwhile, as head of the nonproft Church Association for Community Services, has admitted he signed checks for Mrs. Williams´ driver at the request of Mr. Jones.

Mr. Jones, meanwhile, has said he raised money for the driver at the request of Mr. Omer. Sometimes Mrs. Williams´ driver was paid her $1,000-a-month fee in hard cash, and sometimes she was paid by check. Interestingly enough, none of the parties involved has disputed the per-month fee. Indeed, so many folks in the mayor´s office are willing to talk that this investigation should be a walk in the park.

It must be said, however, that this scandalous he said-he said could have been avoided had Mr. Omer and Mr. Jones been more forthcoming with the mayor and had the mayor been a bit more, shall we say, personally involved as a good son should have been. To be sure, Mrs. Williams often has a daily schedule as busy as her son´s. She is regularly out and about speaking on behalf of seniors, disadvantaged youths and others. Bless her heart.

Still, Mrs. Williams is not on the city´s payroll. The mayor, on the other hand, is - to the tune of $133,700 a year, which is more than enough to pay someone to navigate the potholed streets of Washington on his mom´s behalf. D.C. taxpayers should not be called on to do that.

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