- The Washington Times - Friday, March 29, 2002

The D.C. inspector general yesterday released a report that did not directly implicate Mayor Anthony A. Williams in illegal or unethical campaign practices but held him accountable for such activity in the mayor's office.

The report the result of a 13-month investigation into charges of illegal fund raising and corruption found "the possibility of criminal violations in only a few instances, and these matters have been referred" to the U.S. attorney for the District, Inspector General Charles C. Maddox said in an executive summary of the report.

"Because critical witnesses provided contradictory statements, it is difficult to determine the extent of the mayor's knowledge of the fund-raising activities of his staff," Mr. Maddox said. "Nevertheless, Mayor Williams is accountable and responsible for the conduct of … employees under his immediate supervision."

The inspector general had been investigating charges that Mr. Williams' staff had raised campaign funds by misleading donors and worked on campaign strategy as part of their city-paid duties.

"I am disappointed that the report suggests the possibility of criminal wrongdoing by some former members of my staff," Mr. Williams said in a prepared statement yesterday. "Importantly, the report confirms that with appropriate safeguards we can continue to harness the energy of the private sector in helping us form partnerships to continue the process of revitalizing the District."

In January, Mr. Williams publicly apologized for his part in the fund-raising scandal, blaming two former staffers for setting up nonprofit groups that collected more than $500,000 for campaign purposes. Some donors had complained they thought they were contributing to programs to send poor children to basketball games. The mayor also announced strict new rules to prevent a recurrence of the scandal.

Mr. Maddox yesterday released a 44-page summary of the report to the public. He forwarded the complete report, which has about 300 pages, to the U.S. attorney, the Internal Revenue Service, the mayor's office and the D.C. Council.

City sources close to the matter said the names of former Chief of Staff Abdusalem Omer, Deputy Chief of Staff Mark A. Jones and former mayoral staffer Tommy Tucker have been given to the U.S. Attorney's Office for further investigation.

U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard has not yet made a decision on whether criminal charges will be filed.

"We just got the report today, and it is premature to say whether or not we will file any charges," said Channing Phillips, chief of staff for the U.S. attorney. "We need to have a full review before we make any decisions, but I don't think the review will take that long."

The report scrutinizes the solicitation of $1.5 million in donations over the mayor's first two years in office. Questions about fund raising arose last year after the mayor was accused of using nonprofit groups to raise funds and skirted financial-disclosure laws.

"None of the $1.5 million raised … was ever placed into the District treasury where it would accrue interest and be properly accounted for," the report said.

The report, which does not name any mayoral staffers, said two officials in the Office of the Mayor's Chief of Staff were seen to have taken egregious action in raising money for D.C. events.

The report said that a former deputy chief of staff and employees under him raised $1.2 million for the District to sponsor the Millennium Celebration by establishing partnerships in which nonprofit entities were either created or commandeered.

"Some of these organizations were unincorporated and others lacked tax-exempt status," the report said.

The mayor's chief of staff is blamed in the report for not properly managing his employees "to ensure that fund raising was conducted in accordance with legal standards."

The report said in several instances city workers were unaware of laws in place regarding proper fund-raising activity or in most cases the laws did not implicitly explain proper procedures.

The report also found that Mr. Williams did not have legal authority to use independent nonprofit "entities and partnerships" to raise money for official purposes.

"The only legal authority available to solicit funds for official purposes in the amounts and methods used … is the Mayor's gift acceptance authority," the report states.

Though the report does not accuse Mr. Williams of deliberate wrongdoing, it does embarrass a mayor who ran for office based on his financial management skills and high ethical standards.

Mr. Williams, whose campaign war chest boasts more than $1 million, is seeking re-election and has yet to draw a challenger.

In his 1998 mayoral campaign, Mr. Williams failed to disclose that he earned $40,000 in consulting fees from companies that were doing business with the District when he was the city's chief financial officer. After the matter was investigated by the city elections board, he apologized and paid a $1,000 fine.

Council member Harold Brazil, at-large Democrat, is also mentioned for having raised $40,000 from a D.C.-regulated corporation for an evening reception at the Democratic National Convention.

Jabeen Bhatti and Jim Keary contributed to this report.


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