A federal grand jury investigating former D.C. deputy mayor Ivanhoe Donaldson's handling of city funds yesterday questioned telephone company executive Delano Lewis, finance chairman for Mayor Marion Barry's 1982 campaign, about an $1,800 check the campaign made out to a longtime Donaldson friend, Lewis said.
Donaldson, the principal architect of Barry's political career and the chairman of the District's Democratic Party, managed Barry's reelection campaign.
The grand jury has been investigating whether Donaldson received the proceeds of about $30,000 in city checks made out to others, sources have said. It is now also looking into whether he may have obtained funds from the $1,800 campaign check made out to Judy Richardson, according to sources familiar with the investigation. One of the city checks being investigated also was made out to Richardson.
Lewis, who is executive vice president of the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., said he was shown a copy of the canceled campaign check made out to Richardson when he appeared before the grand jury for about 15 minutes yesterday. He said he was interviewed for about 40 minutes by federal prosecutors immediately before he testified.
Lewis said his appearance before the grand jury had nothing to do with C&P or his job with the company, and that the questions centered only on the campaign.
Lewis said his primary campaign role was fund raising, but the committee treasurer, Ann R. Kinney, occasionally would ask him to sign checks. He said he signed the Richardson check, and "I have no recollection of that being any different from any other check that came before me."
"I don't know her [Richardson], nor do I know whether she received it [the $1,800 check]," Lewis added.
Richardson, a New York City resident, and her attorney, Lloyd Moore, declined to comment yesterday.
When informed of Lewis' comments yesterday, Robert P. Watkins, Donaldson's attorney, said "Thank you very much for letting me know," and declined to say anything further.
Annette Samuels, Barry's press secretary, said yesterday that Barry's position has been that he will not comment on the investigation.
Campaign expense reports of the "Citizens to Reelect Marion Barry" on file at the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance show that an $1,800 check to "Judy Richardson" was issued on March 29, 1982. The report listed the purpose of the expenditure as "research."
Donaldson received about $42,000 in salary and expense reimbursements from the Barry committee between June 1982 and October 1982, according to the committee reports.
The federal grand jury investigation of Donaldson began last fall after the city inspector general's office raised questions about three checks for about $30,000 issued by Donaldson in 1981 when he headed the D.C. Department of Employment Services. Barry ordered the checks turned over to U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova.
One of the three city checks was made out to Charles E. Cobb, another longtime Donaldson friend. Cobb said in an interview last year that he told the grand jury he had done no work for the city and did not receive the $4,500 check. Cobb said that when he was shown the check by federal prosecutors, his own name was on the back of the check as an endorsement, but he said he told the grand jury that the signature was not his.
Richardson, Cobb and Donaldson have been friends since their days in the civil rights movement.
Lewis' political ties to Barry have been the subject of recent allegations made by Jose Gutierrez, the city's former chief purchasing official. Gutierrez has alleged that Lewis has been exerting political pressure to get three lucrative city telephone contracts -- charges strongly denied by Lewis.