Jeanus B. Parks, newly appointed member of the D.C. board of elections and ethics, approved what federal investigators say was a questionable $3,000 consulting contract with Joseph P. Yeldell when Parks headed the city's antipoverty program six years ago.
The ethics board on which Parks sits is now investigating a wide range of charges of conflict of interest on Yeldell's part as head of the D.C. Human Resources Department.
Both men deny any impropriety in connection with the 1971 consulting contract, but Parks says he is considering removing himself from the board's current review of Yeldell's activity.
The consulting contract with Yeldell was made when Parks was head of the United Planning Organization - an umbrella organization handling the city's antipoverty funds - and just after Yeldell had completed an unsuccessful race for D.C. delegate to Congress.
At the time, Yeldell was unemployed and had more than $10,000 in campaign debts, according to Yeldell's attorneys and to campaign records.
Parks, who was sworn in as a member of the elections and ethics board two weeks ago, said questions being raised about the 1971 consulting agreement are making him reconsider his ability to deal with all such issues that might come before the board.
"When I look at my range of activities in the past.I wonder if I can do anything" on the board, Parks said. He said he agreed to join the board at the request of Mayor Walter E. Washington long before any question of Yeldell's activities came up, and that he did not remember the consulting agreement until asked about it by a reporter.
"If I thought there was anything improper, I certainly wouldn't knowingly allow myself to get caught up in it," Parks added.
The consulting agreement was signed in February, 1971, to pay Yeldell "to render assistance and provide consultant services to the executive director (Parks) of UPO on the design of a youth development division" and to review various youth program proposals submitted to UPO.
In May, 1971, Yeldell submitted a four-page report of consultant services explaining what he had done in connection with the agreement. According to persons who have seen that document, it merely set forth names of persons with whom he had meetings and discussions and concluded:
"In summary, many persons were contacted and much research of existing programs were conducted. Through it all, it became very clear to all concerned that there exists a vital need for UPO to establish a youth division to caring for the poor, disadvantaged youth in the metropolitan vision and to direct the efforts of this area."
Yeldell's report also said that "at a close-out meeting where the principal public officials were brought to UPO for wrap-up discussions, general support was shown for the effort already begun for UPO" and the public officials pledged to work together.
According to government documents, a General Accounting Office auditor who investigated the grant to Yeldell considered "it questionable that Yeldell spent the days he stated in his report and further considered that the report did not say anything which would justify payment of $100 a day."
In an interview last Friday, Parks said he remember meeting with Yeldell about the grant, but added that he was sure there was no "political purpose" connected with the grant. He said he had approved consulting agreements to other persons who either were then in politics or subsequently entered local politics.
He compared his situation on the elections and ethics board to that of a judge or lawyer who must rule on the propriety of other judges or lawyers.
"I took an oath to discharge the duties of an office. I would hope there's enough trust that a job would be done honorably," Parks said.
Parks, who resigned as head of UPO nearly four years ago amid controversy over its funding and his strong support of a private development project through an agency known as the Brookland FUnd, said he was hesitant to accept any public job again because of the toll it takes on his family.
He has been teaching law at Howard University and said he will continue that job while holding down the part-time post on the board of elections and ethics. He said Mayor Washington urged him to take the post because he felt a lawyer should be on the board.
Parks succeeded city administrator Julian Dugas as head of the Neighborhood Legal Services Program in 1968.
Yeldell's attorneys said the now suspended DHR director found out the grant was available from UPO by "shopping around. He talked to Jeanus and Jeanus asked him to do it."