- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance cleared council member Yvette M. Alexander on Wednesday of allegations she used her constituent services fund for her personal benefit, yet fined her $4,000 for two smaller infractions.

The OCF says Ms. Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat, used $300 from the fund for political purposes, namely to fund robocalls, and failed to report 19 checks totaling $4,700 between October 2007 and January 2009.

A 29-page order by the OCF said Ms. Alexander could have been fined up to $38,000 for the violations.

However, the investigation did not find any quid pro quo arrangement between Ms. Alexander and her landlord for the space used to house her constituent services office [-] concluding a reduced rate for the space was based on seasonal use and not in exchange for favorable legislation. Investigators also concluded that using money from the fund on catering expenses for community events was justified.

It also found that certain accounts with Verizon paid for with the fund were used to communicate with constituents in need.

Ms. Alexander said she was pleased with the overall findings and plans to appeal the fine within 15 days. She said an amended complaint can resolve the discrepancy in reported checks.

“I can definitely prove that was a mistake,” Ms. Alexander said, noting she has provided documentation to the OCF dating back to her election in 2007. “We submitted everything, and surely there could have been something on my part.”

She also said the $300 used for political purposes went to robocalls to inform neighbors of an upcoming community appreciation day.

The OCF’s investigation arose from a complaint by Geraldine Washington, a Ward 7 resident who said Ms. Alexander used the constituent services funds to pay for campaign office space and incurred expenses that did not benefit ward residents.

The complaint came in the wake of reports by The Washington Times that Ms. Alexander spent less than 5 percent of her constituent service funds on urgent needs such as medical care, funeral costs and rental assistance for some of the District’s poorest residents.

In its findings, the OCF said the legislation perceived as favorable to Ms. Alexander’s landlord, former council member H.R. Crawford, was requested by the executive branch, and rental payment from the council member’s principal campaign committee (PCC) and constituent services fund (CSF) were appropriately bifurcated.

“While it should be noted that the PCC and CSF apparently used the office space simultaneously at various times, it is clear that both entities paid the amounts due pursuant to their separate agreements, from separate bank accounts, and segregated their activities,” the OCF’s order said.

The complainant, Ms. Washington, said the OCF’s findings were “not surprising,” because she did not have faith in the agency’s ability to investigate the matter.

“We’re not satisfied,” she said of her contingent of Ward 7 residents who brought complaint. “We think there is some substance to what we were alleging.”

Ms. Washington said she could not comment on the OCF’s reasoning until she had the chance to read the full report.

“Whatever they put in there, I probably won’t be surprised,” she said. “I thought they would give her a slap on the wrist.”

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