D.C. Deputy Mayor Ivanhoe Donaldson, who took part in the final days of campaign organizing for Mayor-elect Harold Washington of Chicago, may have run afoul of the federal Hatch Act's ban on political activities by government employes.
Donaldson, deputy mayor for economic development and Mayor Marion Barry's top political strategist, took administrative leave and flew to Chicago five days before the April 12 election. He said he went to offer advice on the post-election transition and that his actions were proper. Two Washington aides described him as a high-level adviser to the campaign.
The Hatch Act prohibits most persons employed by federal agencies and the District of Columbia from taking an active part in political management or in political campaigns. Those exempted from the law include the mayor, members of the D.C. City Council and the D.C. Recorder of Deeds.
Alma Hepner, a spokeswoman for the Office of Special Counsel of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, yesterday declined to comment specifically on Donaldson's activities, but said District employes are covered by the Hatch Act even when they take personal or administrative leave.
"Basically, as a general response to your question," Hepner told a reporter, "if the person is an employe of the District of Columbia Government and did take an administrative part in political management or political campaigns and isn't covered by the exception, it would appear he is in violation."
Hepner added that her office has received no complaints about Donaldson's activities.
"I was not in violation of anything," Donaldson said yesterday, adding that he never considered whether the Hatch Act might prohibit his involvement in Washington's campaign against Republican Bernard Epton.
"You mean to say that I'm not free to go to Chicago?" Donaldson said. "My being under the Hatch Act is absurd . . . I don't have any rights. The mayor can fire me any time he wants."
Donaldson said yesterday that he went to Chicago specifically to assist Washington's aides in preparing for the post-election transition. Donaldson, who resigned a city government post to manage Barry's last campaign for mayor, also served as head of the mayor's transition team after last fall's election.
He declined yesterday to elaborate on his role in Chicago, other than to say he gave advice to Washington's campaign. "Obviously, if my advice was sought, I gave it," Donaldson said.
Joseph Gardner, Washington's director of field operations, told a Washington Post reporter that Donaldson was in charge of election-day operations, including voter turnout, poll watching and general trouble-shooting. "He was our chief technical adviser in the overall" operation, Gardner said.
"You could say he was a top-level adviser," a press spokesman for Washington said yesterday.
Donaldson and Barry each made two trips to Chicago to work for Washington, during the primary and general election campaigns. Barry, who helped raise $50,000 for Washington at two major fundraisers here, flew to Chicago the Sunday before the election and campaigned extensively throughout the city.
Kathleen Williams, a press aide to Barry, said late yesterday that Donaldson went to Chicago solely "to work on the transition."
Penalties for violating the Hatch Act range from a 30-day suspension from work to removal from office.