Candidates for the Washington School Board took time off from campaigning yesterday to tangle - sometimes politely, sometimes angrily - with the city's Board of Elections and Ethics.
The elections board's office of campaign finance, which administers the city's tough campaign finance and financial disclosure laws, had charged 17 of 18 candidates in Tuesday's election, plus one candidates in Tuesday's drew, with filing required forms late, and in a few cases with failing to file them at all.
It made similar charges against almost all of their campaign committees.
However, during 6 1/2 hours of hearings - spread over late Thursday and yesterday:
One candidate and one treasurer produced receipts from the board office indicating they had filed reports that they were accused of not submitting.
The board's general counsel Wilfred R. Mundle acknowledged that there was an important misprint in the compilation of laws distributed by the board office.
Several of the candidates said they had been given incorrect advice by board employees, but Lindell Tinsley, a board lawyer who presented the cases, said the board can "take no responsibility for any of their representations."
Nearly all the candidates said they had been confused by the law or the reporting forms, and board chairwoman Shari B. Kharasch agreed that parts of the law are "rather ambiguous and confusing." But Kharasch added:
"Some of the candidates did try to comform to the law . . . but not all of them were as conscientious. I think the candidates have a responsibility here, and some of them are not exercising it."
Kharasch said she had "no idea" when the board would rule on the cases, which carry potential fines of $50 a day for each violation. She said all those in similar circumstances would be treated the same way.
Although the docket for yesterday's hearing was arranged in alphabetical order, the first case to be dealt with involved at-large incumbent Barbara Lett Simmons, who was 15th on the list.
Simmons herself was away - at a conference in the Virgin Islands - but her lawyer, Dovey J. Roundtree, came to the front of the hearing room to argue that any delay by Simmons in filing forms was a matter of "excusable neglect."
Roundtree said she had to rush back to Superior Court, and board members agreed to hear her.
However, ward two candidate Alverta Munyln, who was ninth on the list, asked loudly, "Should we just walk up or should we wait our turn." Then the rest of the cases were taken in order.
The most demonstrative candidate of the afternoon was R. Calvin Lockridge (ward eight). He complained heatedly that the charges against him were "totally unfair," and produced a receipt from the elections board office for one statement he was charged with not filing.
Lockridge said he was confused about other requirements of the finance law because friends picked up petitions for him in July while he was in Atlanta. Later, he said he still has a job in Atlanta as field director of a research study, but he said he would start work in the Washington area around Dec. 1.
"It's very unfair making us come here on the last weekend of the campaign," Lockridge added. "I can't get out my last mailing."
Alexis Rieffel, who represted his wife Alaire, a candidate in ward two, charged that her opponent Munlyn had violated the "substance" of the campaign law as well as its procedures by reporting a contributions of $400, far above the $100 limit for individual donations.
Board member Jeanus Parks said the complaint was "irrelevant" to yesterday's hearing, and had it stricken from the record.
Munly's treaurer, Diane Roche, acknowledged the $400 gift from Eugene Stuart, a lawyer, but said she just found out about the $100 limit "two seconds ago."
Overall, according to financial reports, Munlyn has raised $830 for her campaign, compared to $1,957 raised by Rieffel.
The reports indicate that Simmons has by far the largest campaign chest - $8,215 - including a loan from herself of $2,152.