- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 6, 2003

D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty says he is pleased that the city’s inspector general is investigating the July theft of financial records at the University of the District of Columbia and its connection to a $263,000 renovation of the university president’s residence.

“I’m glad to see that the IG is looking into it,” said Mr. Fenty, a Democrat who represents Ward 4, which includes the university.

Mr. Fenty, a member of the council’s education committee, has criticized UDC officials for allowing the school’s facilities to fall into disrepair while refurbishing the three-story brick home in the 3500 block of Rittenhouse Street NW that serves as the official residence of UDC President William L. Pollard.

The Washington Times reported in July that the theft of the records from the office of finance official Mark Lassiter — a target of the inspector general’s investigation — coincided with news media inquiries about expenditure on the president’s home and the hiring of the university’s provost.

“The whole business of these files being missing from the building was peculiar at best and suspicious at worst,” Mr. Fenty said.

A university spokesman on Monday confirmed that an investigation is under way but declined to comment in depth because Mr. Lassiter is an employee of D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi.

Ben Lorigo, executive director of the Office of Integrity and Oversight for the D.C. chief financial officer, said his office is aware of the investigation but is not conducting its own review of the theft.

“The inspector general is handling that investigation,” Mr. Lorigo said, adding that the chief financial officer would become involved if “we feel there’s a need for further review.”

Tony Bullock, a spokesman for Mayor Anthony A. Williams, said the investigation is not unusual.

“The inspector general is obligated to look into these matters since they have been raised, but that doesn’t mean anybody did anything wrong,” Mr. Bullock said. “The mayor has great confidence in the board of UDC to oversee the operations of the university. He doesn’t want to step in and second-guess the folks who have been charged with that responsibility.”

Charles Ogletree, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, did not return a phone call or an e-mail requesting comment.

The theft occurred in the university’s finance department and involved files pertaining to the school’s payroll, the financial affairs of Mr. Pollard’s office, expenses for renovating his home and other executive spending, according to a UDC staff member familiar with the finance department.

No other items were taken from Mr. Lassiter’s cubicle-style office on the third floor of UDC Building No. 38. No other financial offices or cubicles were burglarized in the incident, which Mr. Lassiter reported to campus police July 11.

Meanwhile, the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance is investigating whether Mr. Pollard violated ethics rules in hiring family friend Wilhelmina M. Reuben-Cooke as the school’s provost, following reports in The Times about her credentials for the $137,000-a-year job.


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