D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke yesterday questioned the judgment of Deputy Mayor Alphonse G. Hill, and a Democratic mayoral candidate, Mattie Taylor, called for Hill to resign after the disclosure that Hill was paid $2,000 to $3,000 by the head of a firm that does business with the city.
Hill's acceptance of such payments -- which an attorney for the firm said was not related to city business -- at minimum creates the appearance of a conflict of interest, said Clarke in a telephone interview from his home. The chairman added that he was withholding judgment on whether he thought it violated the city's conflict-of-interest rules until he had time to review the law.
"At this point, it would appear to me that Hill should have used better judgment," said Clarke, who is said to be considering challenging Mayor Marion Barry in this year's mayoral race.
Taylor, a former school board member and retired deputy director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services, said she believes that Hill's acceptance of the payments was improper. "For him to have received anything of value from a person doing business with the city is a violation" of city conflict-of-interest standards, Taylor said.
A federal grand jury has been investigating since last year whether Hill received any kickbacks or other financial considerations from James Hill Jr., the head of Hill, Taylor & Co., a Chicago-based accounting firm that has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in city contracts.
On Friday, James Hill's attorney, Adam Bourgeois, said that his client has told federal investigators that he paid $2,000 to $3,000 to Alphonse Hill in December and January in exchange for business referrals. Bourgeois said the payments were proper and were not related to Hill, Taylor & Co.'s contracts with the D.C. government.
Alphonse Hill, who has previously strongly denied any wrongdoing, yesterday said he has nothing further to say. He is not related to James Hill.
Bourgeois called the payments to the deputy mayor a "matter of courtesy" for his referring James Hill to a Midwest firm whose name Bourgeois declined to disclose. Bourgeois said Alphonse Hill, who had a private accounting practice in Chicago before he joined the D.C. government in August 1979, had an "ancient" business relationship with the firm James Hill was referred to.
According to a source familiar with the investigation, James Hill identified the company to which he had been referred as Group Insurance Administration Inc., a Chicago firm. Robert H. Carter III, president of Group Insurance, has previously said that he has been subpoenaed before the grand jury to answer questions about his D.C. contracts. Group Insurance and another firm headed by Carter have received three city contracts from agencies under Alphonse Hill's control. Carter could not be reached for comment during the past two days.
In interviews last month, Bourgeois and former Hill, Taylor & Co. employes said that Carter shares the rent on a Washington apartment with James Hill.
Alphonse Hill has previously said he recommended James Hill's firm to other city officials several years ago. The firm received more than $200,000 in city auditing contracts within a year after it opened a branch office here in 1981.
Mayoral candidate Taylor said that it was unethical for Alphonse Hill to have played any role in the awarding of city contracts to a firm headed by James Hill, a longtime friend of Alphonse Hill, and that the deputy mayor compounded the problem by his recent receipt of money from James Hill.
In 1982, Alphonse Hill was told by then-city Inspector General Joyce Blalock to put "a little more distance" between himself and James Hill's firm after she investigated the relationship and found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
The firm is also seeking to retain a city lottery auditing contract. Several firms are bidding on a new lottery contract. It will be awarded by the city controller's office, an agency under Alphonse Hill's control.
Taylor said that the deputy mayor's actions are the latest example of the Barry administration's disregard for ethical government behavior.
"Mr. Hill's judgment as to what is proper . . . leaves much to be desired," she said. "He certainly is not the type of man who should preside over this city's millions of dollars."