- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A former advisory neighborhood commissioner accused in June by the District of Columbia auditor of stealing $30,000 in taxpayer money is being charged with a felony, court documents filed Wednesday show.

William C. Shelton is charged with one count of access-device fraud for obtaining an ATM card, against D.C. regulations, which he used to withdraw cash from the account of the ANC he chaired, spending it on Lexus payments, at Bloomingdale’s and elsewhere between 2010 and 2011.

The board of elected neighborhood representatives is in Ward 5, whose former council member, Harry Thomas Jr., this month pleaded guilty to stealing city money.

Prosecutors are demanding that the $30,000 be forfeited to the United States and say if the money cannot be located, they will “seek forfeiture of any other property of the said defendant.”

Mr. Shelton last month separately signed a settlement with the District’s attorney general, in which he agreed to repay the money to the city at a rate of $200 per month.

If Mr. Shelton pleads guilty, the District could apply to the U.S. to receive forfeited funds, and there could also be a separate order of restitution to the city at sentencing. The criminal information filed by federal prosecutors typically indicates a plea deal is near.

Mr. Shelton was the longtime top official of ANC 5B, one of 37 boards of elected officials that offer guidance to city regulators on matters such as liquor licenses, zoning and parking. Each also receives a budget it can use to award grants to community nonprofits, with $2 million in ANC bank accounts in all. A few use it to pay a staff member - including ANC5B, which used it to pay $25 an hour to a friend of Mr. Shelton, Patsy Staten, who also worked for Mr. Shelton at a city-funded entity for at-risk youth he controlled.

After months of presenting false accounts of how much money was in its account, records show, Mr. Shelton, who did not return a call for comment, was forced to resign when the bank account had only $7.11 remaining.

But even with Mr. Shelton gone, accountability was slow to come in Ward 5.

“What I hear is more people being consoling of Harry Thomas and William Shelton, and that really blows my mind,” said Commissioner Vaughn Bennett. Still, “this is a step towards changing the negative atmosphere,” he said.

The group’s treasurer, Patricia Brown-Daniels, acknowledged she had never looked at a bank statement or performed other basic financial responsibilities, yet she remained in her role as financial steward despite community outcry.

There were no repercussions for Ms. Staten, who continued working out of the office on a volunteer basis and told a D.C. official that office supplies contained there were her personal property. Invoices obtained by The Washington Times show she was ordering large amounts of office supplies with ANC funds and having them delivered to various addresses.

“She was in cahoots with Shelton and admitted it to a detective. She openly admitted she falsified reports,” said Commissioner India Henderson.

The commissioner who filled Mr. Shelton’s spot as chairman in the wake of the scandal, Regina James, blocked access to the group’s finances to the public and fellow commissioners in defiance of rules, The Times reported in September.

Ms. James has since been replaced as chairman by Jacqueline Manning, who lashed out at Mr. Bennett for involving the public after revelations of theft and requesting that Mr. Shelton resign. “You CANNOT request this from any commissioner!” she wrote. “Please stop putting our commissioner business on the listserv as well!”

No one immediately confiscated Mr. Shelton’s key to the ANC’s office, allowing him access to records that could have detailed any financial improprieties going back years. The records obtained by The Times included checks made out to Mr. Shelton preceding the period of theft covered by the charges.

The ANC will forfeit its 2011 allocation of taxpayer money because it did not provide financial information to the city on time, according to the D.C. auditor. But in December, D.C. officials voted to give the ANC $15,000 from an insurance fund to replace the stolen money.

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