A federal grand jury investigating alleged financial misconduct at the University of the District of Columbia has subpoenaed records from the National Bank of Washington, the financial institution that has managed the university's $10 million endowment fund since it was transferred from another bank in March, a spokesman for NBW confirmed yesterday.
Questions about the transfer were first raised in May when D.C. Auditor Otis H. Troupe said he was conducting an audit of the shift of funds, which was done without competitive bidding.
UDC trustee Joseph Webb also questioned the endowment fund transfer and expenditures by former university president Robert L. Green and other officials in a letter to U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova three weeks ago, which helped spark the federal investigation. Webb asked in the letter why the transfer was made and whether anyone received a finder's fee from the bank.
Records sought under the wide-ranging subpoena served on NBW yesterday include loans by the bank to Ronald H. Brown, chairman of the UDC board of trustees, sources said. Brown was a member of the three-member UDC committee that approved the transfer of the $10 million fund from the American Security Bank to NBW.
Property records on file with the D.C. Recorder of Deeds show that Brown received two mortgage loans from NBW, one in November 1978 for $15,000 and the other in September 1982 for $100,000. The loans, on his former and present residences in Northwest Washington, were paid off before the transfer of university funds was made.
An NBW spokesman issued a statement acknowledging that records had been subpoenaed but the spokesman declined to discuss any details.
"The National Bank of Washington confirmed today that it was in receipt of a grand jury subpoena of certain financial records which it maintains concerning the University of the District of Columbia," the statement said. "The bank is, of "The transfer in question was approved by the Investment Advisory Committee and was absolutely proper and appropriate." -- Ronald H. Brown course, in the process of complying with that subpoena."
Brown declined to comment on his mortgage loans but said the UDC Investment Advisory Committee, which transferred the fund, would "welcome any inquiry."
"The transfer in question was approved by the Investment Advisory Committee and was absolutely proper and appropriate," Brown said.
According to D.C. records, Brown received a $15,000 second mortgage from NBW on his former home at 7935 Orchid St. NW. That loan in November 1978 was issued five years after Brown received a $50,000 first mortgage on the house from Independence Federal Savings and Loan Association, records show.
In September 1982, before he sold the Orchid Street home, Brown took a $100,000 six-month mortgage loan from the bank to help pay for a $250,000 residence at 2722 Unicorn La. NW. In addition to the six-month note from NBW, Brown assumed a $150,000 mortgage from Lucy DeCarlo, the previous owner of the Unicorn Lane residence, DeCarlo said.
Immediately after the sale of the Orchid Street residence in May 1983, Brown paid off the $50,000 Independence Federal loan and the $100,000 NBW loan. In January 1984, Brown paid off the $15,000 NBW loan, records show.
Brown played a highly visible role in the UDC controversy, which began with the reports in May about Troupe's audit of the endowment fund transfer. As chairman of the board of trustees, Brown at first defended Green, who was accused of misspending thousands of dollars of UDC funds on travel, consultants and household items.
In the week before Green resigned Aug. 23, however, Brown and Herbert O. Reid Sr., legal counsel to Mayor Marion Barry and a UDC trustee, took the lead in negotiating a resignation agreement with Green.
The UDC endowment portfolio, which is divided into two accounts, had been managed for nearly 15 years by American Security Bank and yielded more than $1 million in interest during fiscal 1984.
The endowment was transfered to NBW last March after bank officials persuaded the investment committee that it could bring a higher return on the $10 million, according to Alphonse G. Hill, deputy mayor for finance, who sits on the UDC investment advisory committee with Brown and UDC trustee Daniel I. Fivel.
"In all honesty, NBW went after the business," Hill said in a recent interview. "They wrote letters soliciting the business. They were very aggressive."
Since September 1983 NBW has obtained two other contracts to provide banking services to the District government.
The transfer of the endowment account to NBW was made on the advice of Brown, who told The Post in May that he began informal discussions with NBW about the account more than two years before the transfer was made.
"Frankly, I feel like I can invest anywhere I want, as long as it's a reputable institution," Brown said at that time.
Troupe, in a letter in April to NBW, District and university officials, asked questions about the transfer, including whether other banks submitted bids for the funds.
Hill contended in an interview that there was no obligation to submit the account to competitive bidding.
Troupe, whose audit of the endowment fund has not yet been completed, disagrees with that view.
"When you place an amount of that volume it is incumbent on the managers with fiduciary responsibility to establish without question that they are getting optimum return on the investor's dollar," Troupe said yesterday. "I would reject any claim that an endowment of that volume can be placed without a bidding process."
The fund is divided into an Endowment Account of about $7.7 million and a Reinvested Income Account of about $2.6 million.
Several weeks before federal investigators entered the case, Webb and others questioned whether NBW had paid a "finder's fee" to a university official for the transfer of the fund. Luther Hodges, chairman of the board of NBW, denied in a recent interview that a fee had been paid. Hodges was was out of the country yesterday and unavailable for comment.
The federal grand jury also subpoenaed UDC records this week in connection with its investigation of possible fraud and bribery by university officials. The grand jury will review consulting contracts awarded by Green's administration as well as employment contracts of some senior administrators hired by Green.
The grand jury began issuing subpoenas after nearly three weeks of preliminary investigation by the U.S. attorney's office and the FBI.
Rhonda C. Fields, an assistant U.S. attorney, yesterday declined to discuss the grand jury investigation.