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Auditor: ANC 5A treasurer, funds missing

(Published August 9, 1999)

By LUTISHIA PHILLIPS

Staff Writer

Federal authorities have been asked to investigate whether the former treasurer of Brooklandís Advisory Neighborhood Commission, and possibly others, should face criminal charges after a D.C. audit revealed almost $9,000 in ANC funds were improperly disbursed.

Isaac Williams Jr., who until recently also served as chairman of the Ward 5 Republican Party, resigned his ANC seat and the treasurerís position in June 19998 and could not be located by D.C. Auditor Deborah K. Nichols to answer question about the apparent improprieties

Commissioners who served with Williams said they believe he moved to Philadelphia, the home of a woman named Cynthia Williams who was the recipient of about $4,200 of the ANCís funds and whose $334 telephone bill was also paid with ANC money. A check signed by Williams and former ANC chairman Joseph Bowser also paid the city of Philadelphia $1,445.74 to ward delinquent real estate taxes owed by a woman named Roberta Powell.

Bowers, who has resigned his chairmanship but continues to represent single-member district 5A03, told the city auditor he sometimes signed blank ANC checks, which is a collation of D.C. law. He told the auditor he could not recall the specific circumstances related to the 13 checks for improper disbursements that contained his signature.

Bowser was not out of town and could not be reached for comment on this story. His wife said he has not retained an attorney in connection with the auditorís findings.

Nichols said her office has referred its audit findings to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. An FBI spokesman would neither confirm nor deny that federal agents are investigating the matter.

The commissioner(s) responsible for the diversion of ANC 5Aís appropriated funds must be held accountable and must make restitution to the ANC for any unauthorized use of ANC 5A funds as a result of misfeasance or malfeasance," the auditorís report said. To date, none of the money has been returned to the ANC.

Th audit which covered fiscal years 1995 through 1998, found the commission "filed over a significant period of the time to obtain a full and accurate accounting of the ANCís fund from its former treasurer and its chairman. At the same time it appeared that the chairman and treasure failed to voluntarily disclose the financial activity of ANC 5Ato the commissioners on a regular basis, and failed to present proposed expenditures to the commissioners in a public meeting for their approval before making disbursement."

ANC 5A commissioners say they have taken steps to restructure their financial procedures since they received the auditorís report and recommendations.

The auditor found 17 checks written between December 1997 and June 1998, misrepresented on the treasurerís quarterly financial reports present to the ANC for approval. The checks were noted on the financial statement primarily as a routine payments for utility bills and other office expenses, while the audit found the actual payees on the cancelled checks to be Williams, Mason and three hotels.

"The commissioner(s) responsible for the diversion of ANC 5Aís appropriated funds must be held accountable and must make restitution to the ANC for any unauthorized use of ANC 5A funds as a result of misfeasance or malfeasance," the auditorís report said. To date, none of the money has been returned to the ANC.

The audit, which covered fiscal years 1995 through 1998, found the commission "failed over a significant period of time to obtain a full and accurate accounting of the ANCís funds from its former treasurer and its chairman. At the same time, it appeared that the chairman and treasurerÖfailed to voluntarily disclose the financial activity of ANC 5A to the commissioners on a regular basis, and failed to present proposed expenditures to the commissioners in a public meeting for their approval before making disbursements."

ANC 5A commissioners say they have taken steps to restructure their financial procedures since they received the auditorís report and recommendations.

The auditor found 17 checks, written between December 1997 and June 1998, misrepresented on the treasurerís quarterly financial reports presented to the ANC for approval. The checks were noted on the financial statements primarily as routine payments for utility bills and other office expenses, while the audit found the actual payees on the cancelled checks to be Williams, Mason and three hotels.

"The misrepresentation of payeesÖappeared to be an intentional effort by the preparer of the reports to conceal the misappropriation of public funds and mislead the commissioners on ANC 5A, the District of Columbia Auditor, and other reviewers of these quarterly financial reports," according to the audit report.

Commissioners Mary Baird Currie and Robert King both said they were surprised to learn of the auditorís findings against Williams, who was serving his third elected term on the ANC when the diversion of funds occurred.

"Itís unfortunate," King said. "He was a solid leader whoíd always respond to the call of duty."

King said Williams turned in his resignation letter without explanation.

"Something must have bothered him to leave in a hurry," said King, who noted that Williamsí wife still lives in the District. She did not return a call for comment on this story.

King described Williams as a dedicated, religious person who never missed a meeting and always offered prayer.

"We not only relied on him as treasurer but as our spiritual adviser," he said.

Other ANC 5A commissioners did not return repeated phone calls.

Carol Finley, chairman of the Ward 5 Republican Committee, said Williams "was the last person in the world I wouldíve chosen (to commit a crime)." She said he resigned as chairman of the committee after four years, for personal reasons.

Finley described Williams as dedicated, conservative, honorable and a person of extraordinary integrity.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator