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ANC 1A faces probe

Feds, auditor look at checks, spending spree

(Published August 23, 1999)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

The D.C. auditor is investigating the former chairman of the Columbia Heights Advisory Neighborhood Commission for allegedly writing checks on an ANC account that had been closed by the Internal Revenue Service more than two years ago.

Former ANC 1A chairman Robert W. Tucker also apparently opened a business credit card account in the name of the ANC, using the ANC office as the billing address, and charged over $17,000 in personal expenses and cash advances in one month. The auditorís office would not confirm whether the credit card charges are part of the investigation.

Tucker, who reportedly no longer lives in Columbia Heights, could not be located for comment on the allegations. Tucker did not seek re-election last year.

Former commission treasurer Mack James said he was questioned about Tuckerís dealings late last year by an FBI agent as well as an investigator with the auditorís office. An FBI spokesman would neither confirm nor deny that there is an active investigation of Tucker in progress. D.C. Auditor Deborah K. Nichols is expected to issue a report on her investigation before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Commissioner Lenwood Johnson said he was contacted by a neighborhood liquor store in May 1998 seeking reimbursement for a bounced check written on the closed account. He said he is aware of at least one other instance of Tucker allegedly passing checks from that account to another liquor store.

Johnson, who was a former chairman of the ANC, was not on the commission at the time Tucker was chairman. The checking account that Tucker allegedly wrote bad checks on was closed by the IRS in 1997 because the commission had failed to pay payroll taxes.

Johnson said he and another commissioner informed the auditorís office about Tuckerís alleged actions in May 1998 after they received a credit card statement in the mail at the commissionís office showing that Tucker had opened a business account in the name of the commission. A copy of the April 1998 credit card bill obtained by The Common Denominator showed charges at clothing stores, department stores, a hotel and a record store, as well as nearly $4,500 in cash advances. The charges for April 1998 alone totaled over $17,000.

"I was floored when I saw that," James said about the credit card statement.

The ANC has been in disarray since last summer when the auditorís office issued a report showing the ANC had met few of its financial requirements and had displayed "a pattern of mismanagement" that resulted in over $20,000 worth of improper or questionable payments by the ANC from October 1993 through September 1997.

The commission has not filed its required quarterly reports since February 1997 and as a result has not received any funding from the city in over two years. The commission has not been able to pay rent on its office or even open another checking account because it has not resolved its problems with the IRS.

Johnson said that since he was re-elected to the commission, commissioners have not made a serious effort to complete the quarterly reports in order to begin receiving disbursements from the city.

Serious deficiencies in money-handling and record-keeping by many of the cityís 37 advisory neighborhood commissions prompted D.C. City Councilman David Catania, R-At large, to convene ANC oversight hearings earlier this year before the councilís Committee on Local and Regional Affairs, which he chairs. Catania, a former ANC commissioner, subsequently scheduled a citywide training session for ANC commissioners, and his committee is considering legislation aimed at correcting many of the recurrent problems within the cityís system of elected neighborhood government.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator