- The Washington Times - Monday, August 8, 2011

D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander said she was relieved last week to find, after a three-month investigation by the Office of Campaign Finance (OCF), that she “did nothing wrong” in the way she managed her constituent-services fund.

But a review of documents that surfaced in the investigation shows that OCF neither requested nor received any of the receipts that office holders are required by law to maintain to support their use of funds intended to benefit constituents in need.

Among the unexamined expenditures is more than $9,000 paid from Ms. Alexander’s account to her campaign treasurer Derek Ford and an unregistered company he owns. The expenditures are labeled on her quarterly reports as being for “supplies, catering, travel, postage, petty cash and consultant.”

In addition to serving as Ms. Alexander’s treasurer, Mr. Ford is a consultant to Brett Greene, a lobbyist for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which is seeking to build one of its four proposed D.C. stores in Ward 7, the area represented by Ms. Alexander, whose website features her appearing in a Wal-Mart video about the big box store’s “New Healthier Food Options.”

Wal-Mart’s chief lobbyist is D.C. power lawyer David W. Wilmot, who represented Ms. Alexander before the OCF.

Geraldine Washington, who was among the people who requested the investigation, said she would appeal the matter to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics. She was among Ward 7 residents who wanted to know whether Ms. Alexander commingled campaign and constituent-service funds, failed to report and exceeded limits on in-kind donations, accepted reduced rents on a private office in exchange for legislation to benefit her landlord, and benefited personally from funds raised to serve the needy.

“The conclusion of this investigation failed to adequately expose the malfeasance of Councilmember Alexander, yet it accomplishes with blinding transparency the shoddy work product, waste and incompetence of OCF, which so moves me with unyielding determination to seek justice by any other means necessary,” Ms. Washington wrote in an email to The Washington Times.

According to documents released Monday by OCF, Mr. Ford is a recipient of five “starter” checks drawn on Ms. Alexander’s constituent-services account totaling $705 that were not properly disclosed to OCF, as required by law. The memo entries on the checks were for catering, events, food and “reimbursement,” according to the documents, which included canceled checks signed by Mr. Ford.

Mr. Ford, who is not mentioned in OCF’s final investigative report, did not return a call for comment.

In an Aug. 4 letter, OCF Audit Manager Renee Ford requested that Mr. Ford submit an amended report “that mirror the payees, amounts and purposes listed on the cancelled checks.”

In all, OCF found 19 checks drawn on Ms. Alexander’s account that were either not properly disclosed or were previously unreported. The memo entries for those checks include minibillboards, robo-calls, catering, food, candy and lawn-care services.

One unreported check to Ms. Alexander for $302.83 had no memo entry. Two unreported checks totaling $666 were made out to cash and had no memo entry. Another unreported check to Pier 7 Restaurant for $815.47 had no memo entry.

Though the 19 improperly disclosed or unreported checks could have resulted in $38,000 in fines, OCF limited Ms. Alexander’s fine to $4,000.

According to S. Wesley Williams III, OCF’s public affairs director, Ms. Alexander’s response to a request for further information is due Friday. Asked why OCF did not request supporting documentation for tens of thousands of dollars in expenditures after having received a constituent complaint and request for investigation, Mr. Williams replied, “It wasn’t an audit, so it wouldn’t be so detailed to include that type of information.”

Asked whether any of the interviews conducted during the investigation were accompanied by documentation to support the claims of Ms. Alexander and her staff, he replied, “No, but they were under oath.”

The Times first reported on Ms. Alexander’s constituent-services fund use in February, when her phone at a privately leased office space in Southeast was cut off and her lease canceled. A Times review of her constituent-services fund use dating to 2007 showed that she spent less than 5 percent of the $120,000 she has raised since 2007 to help constituents with urgent needs, such as funeral expenses, rent and utilities.

Last week, Ms. Alexander said she is appealing the $4,000 fine and will turn over more information to OCF. Reached Monday, she described The Times’ reporting on her constituent-services fund as “vicious and all lies” and referred questions to her attorney, Mr. Wilmot.

Mr. Wilmot said OCF did a “thorough” investigation, adding that his client turned over all documentation requested by OCF.

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