The lawyer representing organizers of a proposed Women's National Bank here charged yesterday that "procedural improprieties" on the part of the Comptroller of the Currency's regional office in Richmond lead to denial earlier this week of the group's charter application.
Attorney Robert C. Zimmer told reporters that "important evidence" submitted by the group was "intentially or inadvertently excluded from the file and the Comptroller didn't see it." Additionally, Zimmer said, he was "discouraged" by the regional staff from submitting certain information that would have given credence to the group's application.
In a letter to Zimmer, associate deputy comptroller Gail W. Pohn said the organizers had failed to establish that a bank specializing in the financial needs of women was necessary here. He said in addition that small banks are finding it increasingly difficult to compete here and he said the organizers lacked the business bankgrounds or experience "essential to the success of a new bank venture."
Backers of the proposed institution, which would be the first nationally chartered women's bank in the country, have been planning it for two years.
Zimmer, a lawyer specializing in the organization of financial institutions, said yesterday that the group will resubmit background information to acting Comptroller Roubert Bloom and will petition for reconsideration of the application.
Zimmer said he considers the process that led up to denial "some type of cruel joke."
But Bloom said yesterday that he knew of no procedural irregularities on the past of his staff. He denied that information was missing from the group's application file, but acknowledged that he is reviewing a stack of papers submitted by the organizers Thursday to decide whether to reopen the case.
"We leaned over backwards in treatment of this application," Bloom said. "If a group of men with similar back-grounds and financial experience and resources had come in with applications with these facts, at this location, with these projected expenses, the application would have been denied much sooner.
"We gave every consideration to the fact that this was a unique group composed of women only."
Emily H. Womach, the president-designee of the proposed bank and a former vice president of Farmers Bank of the State of Delaware, said that new branch offices for established banks have been approved in recent years in the service area near the planned site of the women's bank at 1627 K St. NW. She said the approvals were inconsistant with the Comptroller's finding that there wasn't enough growth in the area to warrant a new bank.
The service area under consideration by the Comptroller's office is bounded by M, 18th, I and 16th streets NW, a neighborhood that includes nine branches of banks and two main offices. Since 1972, 22 branch offices have been approved in the entire city, a spokeswoman for the Comptroller said.
The District has more branch banks than any other U.S. jurisdiction.
In recent years, the Comptroller has approved the organization of banks set up in the city to serve the local Latin community, Asian-Americans and American Indians all near the Connecticut and K midtown site of the proposed women's bank.
Womach said that although the organizers submitted "substantial evidence of discrimination against women in the area of financial services, it was discovered that none of these studies, reports and case histories became a part of the application file that the Comptroller himself considered.
"This evidence would have contradicted the Comptroller's finding that "the record is devoid of any information supporting the proposition that creditworthy women have been discriminated against in obtaining credit or other bank services in Washington," she said.
She took sharp exception to observation by the federal officials that orv ganizer Jewel Rosenberg, comptroller of House of Wines, an international wholesale distributing firm, was too old at 76 to assist in management of the bank.