When asked to draw a financial profile of City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, friends talk of a man who is forever in a finanical squeeze.
"He steps down from a higher income for a life in politics," one longtime friend said of the former Washington Urban League director. "Now he's trying to rob from the future to pay the present on a reduced income."
Last year, for example, when the mortgage on his Northwest Washington home was almost paid off, Tucker borrowed an additional $55,000 using his house as collatenal. Much of the money was squirreled away in certificates of deposit, but some of it also went to pay off household bills - like charge accounts, insurance premiums and medical bills - and to pay for his daughter's wedding.
Friends of the 53-year-old Council chairman believe that this persistent race to keep ofloat financially is one of the major causes of the controversy that now threatens to bring personal and political embarrassment to the man some consider the front-runner for the 1978 Democratic mayoral nomination.
Equally important, friends and associates believe, is the fact that Tucker has entrusted some of his financial affairs to persons whose incomplete and questionable reporting has now become the focus of news stories implying that Tucker has mismanaged his own financial affairs.
Privately, Tucker is said to have additted that he bears responsibility for not thoroughly checking his own financial records.
Few of those close to Rucker who were interviewed believe that current investigations by D.C. Corporation counsel John R. Richer Jr. or the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics will result in criminal findings of wrongdoing by Tucker. "But I think he's learning a lesson," one assodate said. "In the future, he's going to have to be more careful about the people he chooses to do his work for him."
The latest element in what is developing into a. wide-ranging controversy over Tucker's finances involves several reporting errors in financial disclosure statements routinely filed by Tucker with the which board.
In two of those statements Tucker has given incomplete information that his spokesperson says is the result of clerical errors and uncertainty about the reporting process.
In the report on his 1975 earnings Tucker failed to itemire receipt of $11,000 in severance pay from the Washington Urban League, from which he resigned as executive director in 1974.
The severances pay was included in the $55,990 total income that Tucker reported, but was not itemised in a listing of the sources of money.
The other report in question is that filed for Tucker's 1976 financial transactions. In this report Tucker did not list as an asset a $5,000 loan Tucker had made to a friend.
Tucker's lawyer said that there was no intention of deceiving the election board in the reporting. Nevertheless, the board has begun crosschecking all the reports filed by Tucker to determine whether there are any additional insccuracles.
THe latest disclosures follow the filling last week in D.C. Superior Court of a petition by Corporation Counsel Rusher asking that Fucker be removed from office for allegedly violating city restricitions on outside employment.
The home rule charter requires that the Council chairman work full time for the city and not hold any other salaried job. For two years Tucker worked as an adjunct associate professor at the Howard University, school of social work, receiving a total of $15,000.
TUcker, saying he had received clearance on the job from congressional leaders who drafted the home rule legislation, rountinely reported the income to the ethics board. Nevertheless, risher contended that by holding the teaching post. Tucker had forfeited his right to hold office and should be ousted as Council chairman.
Tucker and his supporters contend that Risher's action is politcally motivated, because Tucker is a major threat to Risher's boss, Mayor Walter E. Washington, should the mayor decide to seek re-election in 1978.
Risher is also investigating Tucker's role in the administration of a $25,000 trust fund established on behalf of his two children with money from the Taconic Foundation, a New York-based philanthropical fund that contributed significantly to the civil rights movement.
R. Kenneth Mundy, Tucker's lawyer, acknowledged yesterday that although in previous investigations of the fund he had said that Tucker's daughters never used any money generated by the fund, about $300 actually had been spent at one time for tuition for one of the daughters.
THe trust fund has generated about $5,000 in interest sicce being established in 1966. None of the money has ever been under Tucker's control. The $5,000 interest could be used by the daughters when the trust matures in 1979.
Last year, following newspaper disclosure of the fund's existence and a U.S. attorney's investigation (which found no wrongdoing on Tucker's part) Tucker announced that because of the "cloud" created by the publicity he would order the fund dissolved in 1979.
After further questions developed regarding Tucker's reports to the ethics board some friends complained yesterday that the Council chairman's financial records were receiving undue and unusual attention from the press while those of others were being ignored. "They would find the same thing on anybody, if they would look at them as closely," one tucker suporter said.
THe financial disclosure forms, known as Form 602A, are filed by all elected city officials. Congidential forms are filed by more than 2,000 other city employees whose jobs could place them in a conflict-of-interest situation.
Robert G. McGuire Jr., acting chairman of the board, was unable to say yesterday whether the required routine examinations of the public financial discloure forms have ever been conducted by ethics board investigators, who have persistently complained of lack of staff. Asked by a reporter what good the forms serve if they were never examined, McGuire responded, "very little."
The severance pay to Tucker totaled $21,000, paid over tow years of work as Washington Urban league executive director, according to R.Kenneth Munday said that Tucker also received $13,158 from the league in 1974 to compensate for 18 weeks of annual leave he had not taker.
Munday said $13,000 of the amount was paid in 1974 and $11,000 in 1975. Tucker's salary at the time he left the Urban League was about $38,000.
Tucker refinanced his home in June of last year with a 8 1/2 per cent interest 25-year loan. Independance Federal Savings and Loan Association made the loan. According to Mundy, Tucker used $23,000 to purchase certificates of deposit and $5,000 to buy stock that he later sold. He also lent $5,000 to the unidentified friend, used $5,000 to pay for his daughter's wedding, paid off the $2,200 mortgage on his house, paid $2,000 in bills and put ablut $14,000 in the bank. Nearly all of the money deposited in bank accounts has since been spent, Mundy said.
Privately, Tucker is said to have told one person that he thinks he will not be damaged politically by the controversy over his finances. "I don't think I'm going to lose any political support," Tcuker told one person. "I think people will see that I'm human."