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Auditor: ANC 8D misspent $30,000

(Published November 20, 2000)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

A long-running standoff between Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners in the southern tip of the city has prompted a city auditorís report questioning the legality of how nearly $33,000 in public funds was spent.

D.C. Auditor Deborah Nichols concluded, in an audit report dated Oct. 27, that ANC 8D was conducting official business and approving expenditures during much of the past three years even though the commission rarely had enough members present to constitute a quorum.

"The chairperson and treasurer expended approximately $33,442.35 in local District revenue allocated to the ANC during the audit period, most of which was disbursed without the approval of a majority of ANC 8D commissioners," which is required by law, the audit said. The audit covered the period from Oct. 1, 1997, to Aug. 31, 2000.

The audit singled out a lease agreement for the commissionís office space that was renegotiated and signed without being voted on by the commission. The commission has paid landlord Thomas Ruffin $13,370 for leased office space at 153 Galveston Place SW, according to the audit. The audit also disallowed a $300 grant made to Patterson Elementary Schoolís Reading is Fundamental program, and said commissioners violated petty cash procedures by failing to keep receipts.

The audit also found the commission improperly approved three quarterly financial reports for 1998 at a meeting where there was no quorum and sent those reports to the auditorís office. Submission of those reports triggered the release of almost $9,900 to the commission.

The commission has 90 days to retroactively approve all of the expenditures or Chairman Winifred Freeman and Treasurer O.V. Johnson will be required to reimburse the commission for those expenses, the report said. If they refuse to reimburse the city for those funds, the corporation counselís office could prosecute them.

The conflict in the commission centers around Freeman, Johnson and Commissioner Robin D. Ijames. Ijames claims Freeman and Johnson have run the commission undemocratically and illegally. She has persuaded other commissioners to not attend monthly meetings, preventing the commission from seating a quorum, in an effort to stop Freeman and Johnson from conducting official business. Ijames asked Nichols to audit the ANC.

Ijames said she will not vote to ratify any expenditures that were made at meetings without a quorum.

"If I didnít approve of it then, Iím not going to approve it now," she said.

Freeman and Johnson both deny all the charges made in the audit, claiming all the expenditures were made properly.

"As chairman of the commission, Iím comfortable with what weíve done in the past," Freeman said.

Johnson said he is not worried about the threat of legal action against him.

"I havenít spent anything illegally or done anything illegal," he said.

When the commission met Nov. 9 ó its first opportunity since the auditorís report was completed to ratify the commissionís expenditures ó Ijames walked out of the meeting, breaking the quorum before the expenditures could be voted on.

Three former ANC commissioners have been convicted this year of misspending city funds in their positions as commissioners. Robert B. Tucker, a former commission chairman in Columbia Heights; Freda Bonner-Lamont, a former commissioner in Fort Totten; and former Brookland area commissioner Isaac Williams were all sentenced in September on various charges of misappropriating ANC funds.

Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator