D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander and her vocal opponent in next year’s race to represent Ward 7 are breathing sighs of relief now that recent investigations have largely cleared both of mishandling government money.
The investigation on Ms. Alexander focused on her handling of a constituent services fund. The other focused on how the nonprofit group Peaceoholics, co-founded by Alexander opponent Ron Moton, handled $13.8 million in grant money.
While it is unclear how the findings will impact the April 2012 primary election, both candidates were quick to underscore any differences between their situations.
Ms. Alexander said the investigation into Peaceoholics concerned government money while hers concerned “private” money.
“I don’t equate the two,” she said.
Acting D.C. Auditor Yolanda Branche released an audit of the Peaceoholics late Wednesday that found the nonprofit lacked the internal controls to monitor funds it received from government agencies and the Child and Youth Investment Trust Corporation from 2005 to 2010, though the group made a “significant contribution” to the District.
Ms. Alexander had asked the auditor to look into the Peaceoholics’ financial disclosure forms and potential role in the 2010 mayoral race between incumbent Adrian M. Fenty and eventual winner Vincent C. Gray, both of whom were Democrats.
Ms. Alexander supported Mr. Gray, while Mr. Moten supported Mr. Fenty.
Ms. Alexander said she called for the audit amid concerns about the lack of checks and balances in accounting for the funds. She also was worried that other groups did not get a chance to compete for $1.3 million in grants and subgrants to Peaceoholics that were not competitively bid.
She was also critical of how the government awarded the grants, saying it “wasn’t on top of the job,”
“Where’s the fairness in all of it?” she asked. “We need to look at where the ball was dropped.”
Mr. Moten said he is happy Ms. Alexander asked for an audit because it revealed “we have not stolen any money, we have not misappropriated any money.”
He also said the investigation into Ms. Alexander is of more concern because she used less than 5 percent of her constituent services fund on those in dire need.
“I think ours is totally different than Yvette’s,” Mr. Moten said. “We spent the money on the people.”
Ms. Alexander says she can account for robocall expenditures and a number of missing checks, two issues that resulted in a $4,000 fine from the Office of Campaign Finance.
However, the agency found no misuse of her constituent services fund, according to its report issued Aug. 3.
Ms. Alexander has defended the use of funds for catering at community events and has denied any quid pro quo agreement with her landlord in exchange for discounted rent on office space.
The accusations, leveled in a complaint by Ward 7 resident Geraldine Washington, were discounted by the audit. Ms. Washington filed an appeal this week that disputes the veracity of the investigation, claiming officials did not cull documents in a timely fashion and relied on self-serving testimony from Ms. Alexander’s team.
Though Ms. Alexander said she was not aware of the filing, she said her own appeal of the fine will clear up any outstanding issues.
Meanwhile, Ms. Alexander’s campaign finance filing from July 31 shows she raised $6,900 in her bid for re-election, with some of the money coming from a kickoff event at the mayor’s home in Ward 7.
Mr. Moten said he has scheduled a private fundraiser for Tuesday ahead of a public kickoff for his candidacy in two or three weeks.
The Peaceoholics’ CEO, Jauhar Abraham, is exploring a political campaign of his own for council member Marion Barry’s seat in Ward 8.
In a brief interview Thursday, Mr. Abraham said Peaceoholics had about 70 employees in its prime but is down to about 10 after funding dried up. Mr. Moten said he has not collected a paycheck from the Peaceoholics for about a year.