- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2002

February a year ago, Mayor Anthony Williams requested that the D.C. inspector general (IG) probe allegations that several of his aides improperly raised money for several mayoral events. "Your review," the mayor said at the time, "will enable us to achieve the full and open disclosure, which is important to honor the trust people of this city have placed in me." Last week, the IG answered the mayor's request, and it doesn't look good for the mayor or his minions.

According to the 13-month probe, which was prompted by news reports made by WRC-Channel 4, the mayor's office improperly, and perhaps illegally, raised more than $1.5 million over two-and-a-half years for such events as receptions at the Democratic and Republican conventions, and the Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Weekend (all in 2000), as well as the mayor's 2001 presidential inaugural reception. Some of the money also was used to pay for transportation for the mayor's mom. "The full report includes materials concerning potential criminal and administrative violations," the IG, Charles Maddox, said. "Specifically, we believe that certain District government employees engaged in activities that violated the Standards of Conduct, and other District and federal laws" including the Hatch Act, and IRS and D.C. tax laws, and campaign-finance laws. Accordingly, the IG forwarded the report to the appropriate authorities.

The legal and political ramifications of this report do far more than "tarnish" Mr. Williams' reputation, however, as The Washington Post said in a March 30 editorial. The report actually flies in the face of Mr. Williams' October 1998 pledge to be "dedicated to a new standard of integrity, accountability, and openness" particularly his commitment to "require extensive ethics training" and that the government's business will be done "honestly." Indeed, this report could damage the mayor's re-election efforts, especially since he permitted many of the parties in question either to leave his administration quietly or to transfer to other positions.

So, it seems, the mayor has little choice henceforth but to be open and honest and to follow the recommendations made by the IG. Those recommendations include taking administrative action against current employees, working with the D.C. Council to make legislative reforms and fully cooperating with federal and local authorities as the probe continues. (It also wouldn't be a bad idea if he were to pledge not to rehire those political appointees should he win re-election.)

For his part, the mayor said he sought private financing because he thought organizations and businesses should give back to the nation's capital, and he is absolutely right. However, there are laws and regulations that dictate who and what can be given and the mayor is expected to abide by them. Furthermore, while Mr. Williams said he was unaware of many of the particulars regarding the fund-raising, ignorance of the law does not mean he and the others are innocent. To be sure, it is hoped that law-enforcement authorities will ignore the political ramifications of the IG report and do the right thing that is, let the chips fall where they may.


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