The five-member Commodity Futures Trading Commission is searching for additional candidates for the post of executive director of the agency in the wake of publicity about a leading candidate's prior, questionable financial dealings.
CFTC Chairman William T. Bagley said the failure of the commission "to reach a consensus in favor of Elmer Cooper" has led to a continuation of its search for executive director.
Cooper has been a special consultant on Bagley's staff since March. He applied for the executive director's job in June, whenit became known that the acting executive derector, Anthony McDonald, planned to leave in August.
Cooper, who worked on the Carter campaign in Illinois for a few months in late 1976, was placed in a special, 90-day consultant post by Bagley at the urging "of a mutual acquaintance" in California.
When Cooper made known his interest in the executive director's job in June, White House staff membe DeJongh Franklin called Bagley to recommend Cooper, Bagley said.
Two weeks ago, the CFTC's commissioners were to vote on his application, but deferred any action after renewed press coverage of Xooper's history while at BART, San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit District. Both before and after that session, Bagley stressed that he would continue to support Cooper for the post. "Elmer's my candidate," he told a reporter.
Officially, his application still is pending, according to Commissioner John V. Rainbolt II. Other CFTC staff members, however, said the issue likely will remain tabled until an acceptable candidate is found.
Late last week, CFTC sources said Cooper is likely to be put in charge of two small divisions at the agency, the Office of Congressional Liaison and the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Both those offices are staffed primarily by schedule 'C', or political, appointees.
The sensitivity surrounding the executive director's job primarily is due to the requirement that the candidate be confirmed by Congress. Anthony McDonald left the commission to pursue private business interests after it became clear that a Democratic Congress would not confirm him as a permanent appointment. McDonald previously held a high-level staff job at the Nixon Committee to Re-elect the President.
Cooper's trouble dates to his jobs as vice president and president of BART during 1975 and 1976.
Board members are paid $50 a meeting, with a $250 monthly limitation, in addition to their expenses, according to a current board member, Arthur Shartsis. The president is paid $5,000 annually plus expenses, Shartsis said. All are publicly elected officials. Unusually high expenses filed by BART board meembers led to the convening of an Alameda County grand jury in November 1975. No charges were brought against anyone as a result of the 13-month probe, however.
The final report of that body, completed in late 1976 and recently obtained by The Washington Post, discloses that Cooper filed $19,713.15 in expenses in the first nine months of 1975 while he was vice president of BART.
In a recent interview, Cooper cited BART as his only employer for the past two years, noting that for the two years prior to being elected to the BART board, he operated his own consulting firm in the Bay area. Other BART board members interviewed by The Post said to their knowledge Cooper was unemployed while on the board.
The report notes that among the most questionable items included in his expense accounts were bills for 31 in-district meals in one month, a European trip in May 1975, airline fare and per diem expenses for a claimed three-day trip from San Francisco to Washington, and $1,000 of clerical expenses with uncancelled checks as documentation.
The most complicated incident invloved the Washington expenses, for which he was reimbursed $573.74, including $488.93 for air fare, $25 for taxi fare and $60 per diem.
The United Air Lines ticket submitted with the expense account was for a May 9 flight which left San Francisco at 8:45 a.m.; he was to return at 6 p.m. on May 11, according to the report.
The same expense voucher, however, included telephone bills for May, recording at least one long-distance call made by Cooper from San Francisco at 7:05 p.m. on May 9.
In addition, "A check with United Air Lines Records Department shows that Mr. Cooper returned this ticket was credited to Mr. Cooper's personal American Express card. A further check indicates that Mr. Cooper was not on the United Air Lines manifest for that flight," the document continues.
But the report notes that Cooper's "explanation for these facts was that he did in fact go to Washington, D.C., on the evening of May 9, 1975, using a fictitious name and purchasing another ticket with cash at the airport. His explanation for using a fictitious name was that he did not want the press to know that he was going. . .since the trip was related to a rather sensitive story that was to be published in The Washington Post concerning BART's new general manager, Frank Herringer."
The document continues, "Cooper could not recall what fictitious name he used to take the trip, on what airline he went, or at what time he left on the evening of May 9. He could not recall what time he arrived in Washington, D.C., only that it was sometime on the morning of May 10."
Concerning the unusually high number of meals written off, the jury of document states, "Cooper could not recall with whom he had these meals or what specific BART business was discussed, only that when he had a meal during which BART business was discussed, he would put the receipt or restaurant tab in hie left-hand pocket for later reimbursement out of BART funds."
The European trip was a 15-day tour of London, Paris, Nice, Brussels and Copenhagen, which cost about $3,000. The primary purpose of the trip was Cooper's attendance at a rapid transit conference in Nice.
The grand jury "had not been able to find any written reports concerning Mr. Cooper's trip directed to either members of the BART board of directors or to the general staff of BART concerning these trips," the report said. "The sole purpose of the trip, according to both Mr. Cooper and Mr. Clark (Richard Clark, former BART President), was to educate Mr. Cooper to new concepts in rapid transit being used in other parts of the world."
Cooper also submitted checks totaling $1,000 for clerical work and for postage which did not carry the coding used by banks in the cancelling process, the document notes.
Cooper resigned in January and repaid BART $2,338.72 for the most questionable undocumented expenses.
Asked to comment on the report, Cooper said, "The gist of (the report) is accurate. I wouldn't say their quotes (of this testimony) are accurate."
He continued, "Someone said my expenses were too high and there was another statement that some of them were fraudulent. Well, the grand jury found none of that . . . They specifically looked at one trip to Washington in early May 1975 and they found a lot of problems with it."
Cooper stressed that his resignation and repayment to BART of $2,338.72 "had nothing to do with the conclusions of the grand jury." He said BART staff members "knew that if Jimmy (Carter) was elected, Elmer Cooper was leaving to go to Washington to work for the administration."
He said six of the nine BART board members reimbursed the transit district for undocumented expenses in January 1977, months after the grand jury report was completed.
"It had been the policy at BART that one did not have to have receipts for all claims. Not every BART director or employee had turned in receipts for all their expenses," he said.
"I didn't have to reimburse them, but I wanted to clear matters up and I did it," he concluded.
Shartsis, a partner in a San Francisco law firm specializing in securities fraud cases, was elected this year to the seat held by Richard Clark, whose unusually high expenses also were reviewed by the grand jury.
Cooper, who was dean of student activities at San Francisco State College when Sen. S.I. Hayakawa (R-Calif.) was president there, was one of four administrators who resigned from the college in 1969 to protest Hayakawa's alleged minority tokenism. Later he was an associate dean of Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.