By Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance has ordered that the chairman of a group dedicated to promoting baseball in the District must repay $70,000 spent on personal expenses, including rent, gas, meals and nightclubs, according to a report released yesterday.
The directive against Neil S. Alpert, chairman of the D.C. Baseball Political Action Committee, also included $4,000 in fines. Unless he files an appeal, the report said, Alpert is to reimburse the money or establish a payment plan by Aug. 6.
Alpert, 29, has denied any wrongdoing, the report said. He did not return telephone calls yesterday.
The campaign office report was based on a complaint filed in August 2005 by PAC members Al Madison and Matt Carey that said they had noticed a pattern of financial irregularities and instructed Alpert to stop spending. At the time, Alpert said in an interview that he was using the PAC's money to pay some of his expenses, such as rent, because his apartment was the PAC's official headquarters.
Carey said he was pleased with the office's findings. He is president of a new nonprofit group, Coalition for D.C. Baseball, which was organized about a year ago to promote amateur and high school baseball and women's softball.
"I think it's good news for the community because the money can be used for after-school programs, summer camp-related activities and trying to get the public high school programs on parity with the other schools" in neighboring jurisdictions, Carey said.
Members of the PAC accused Alpert of misappropriating money raised by the PAC to pay his personal expenses. The complaint also alleged that Alpert filed a false report of expenditures and receipts with campaign finance office.
The investigation by campaign finance officials, including General Counsel Kathy S. Williams and senior staff attorney William O. Sanford, found that Alpert spent $37,670 for personal expenses that were not authorized by the PAC or the D.C. Baseball Association, a nonprofit group that the PAC created to raise money for youth programs. Alpert also did not account for $31,897 in remaining funds, according to bank records. Both groups were dissolved after Major League Baseball authorized a Washington franchise.
"I recommend that Mr. Alpert be fined $2,000 for depositing contributions into accounts other than campaign depositories and $2,000 for failing to timely respond to requests for additional information," Sanford wrote.
The report said that Alpert was not authorized by members of the association to spend the money for his personal expenses and that he used a single bank account for the PAC and the D.C. Baseball Association, which is a violation of the law.
Campaign finance officials also discovered that Alpert had made bank withdrawals of more than $32,000, the report said.
Madison said Alpert used the money as his "personal piggy bank."