In the past three weeks, while I was away on special assignment, a number of stories emerged that I wanted to write about: the Supreme Court's affirmative action ruling, the firing of the Howard University Law School dean, high school kids using beepers to sell drugs, and South Africa's vicious raids on neighboring countries.
But the story that seems to have garnered the most public attention locally is the one involving City Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis and a personal friend and close associate, Woodrow Boggs Jr.
Just over a week ago, an audit by the city's Office of Campaign Finance revealed that officials of Jarvis' 1984 election committee made improper expenditures totaling $172,832 and misrepresented numerous financial transactions.
According to Keith Vance, director of the Office of Campaign Finance, Jarvis, her then-campaign manager Boggs, and three former campaign treasurers were involved in 16 violations of the D.C. campaign finance law. Referring the audit to the police department's Public Integrity Unit, which has begun an investigation, Vance also recommended a $9,500 penalty, the maximum civil fine.
Defending herself, Jarvis (D-Ward 4), chairman of the council's Housing and Economic Development Committee, which oversees banking, contended that the audit was politically motivated by Mayor Marion Barry to harm her career. The mayor has denied the charge. Boggs has said that the audit's allegations lack credence but has refused to comment further on advice of counsel except to say he intended to continue to cooperate with authorities.
But Jarvis' and Boggs' problems did not end there. On the heels of the audit came word that a Citicorp official who headed his bank's efforts to lobby the D.C. government authorized payment of at least $28,200 to Boggs. According to a statement issued by the banking giant, Lucius P. Gregg paid Boggs for his help in satisfying the council's community investment rules for new banks doing business in the city. "Woody has been a part of our discussions with the District from the beginning," he said.
It has struck some people as odd that Boggs, a Jarvis social companion and political confidant who operates a private consulting firm, Decisions Inc., would be involved in a discussion on banking with a Citicorp official.
It also has disturbed some people that council member Jarvis would direct five large banking companies seeking to acquire or open banks here to meet with Boggs, who has no official connection with the city government, to discuss how to win council approval for their ventures.
Indeed, council member Jarvis, informed of the payment by Citicorp to Boggs, responded, "Mr. Boggs is a businessman and Citicorp is a business. My only comment is that it the payments is interesting."
Aside from the investigation of Jarvis' campaign finances, U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova has said that federal prosecutors have received allegations of possible improprieties involving Boggs and Jarvis in connection with out-of-state banks. In the meantime, New York-based Citicorp has recalled Gregg and issued the following statement: "While we have not found any violation of law the matter is still under investigation."
It is important to remember that under our system, everyone, even public officials who are held to a higher ethical standard than the general public, is innocent until proven guilty. But a number of questions can be raised even at this point surrounding the Jarvis-Boggs situation.
As a member of the City Council, Jarvis is hard put to justify having sent representatives of major banks lobbying the District government to a private outside consultant who has no official function with the government and with whom she just happens to have a close personal relationship.
It remains to be seen whether any laws have been broken. However, the danger of intertwining professional and social relationships as Jarvis and Boggs have apparently done is that it reflects badly on home rule, and that's something that no one who cares about the District of Columbia wants to see happen.