Attorneys for D.C. Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) have told Keith Vance, director of the Office of Campaign Finance, that Jarvis will not repay $1,830 in what Vance has ruled were illegal gifts received from the New York banking giant Citicorp.
But Vance, in a letter of response mailed yesterday, said that he would press Jarvis to repay the expenses and would fine her if she did not comply with his request to amend her financial disclosure statement to reflect the gifts. Vance also rejected Jarvis' request that the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics be allowed to mediate the dispute.
Vance's action is the latest development in a dispute over whether Citicorp violated D.C. law by paying expenses for trips to New York by Jarvis and council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), and whether the expenses violated a $100 limit that city officials are allowed to receive from a registered lobbyist in a calendar year.
Jarvis, who maintains that she was not being lobbied when she accepted two New York trips and meals paid for by Citicorp, said that the election board is the proper body to determine what can legally be defined as a gift.
"Mr. Vance is head hunting and headline hunting," Jarvis said yesterday. "He himself admits that the Board of Elections and Ethics is the administrative agency empowered by Congress to interpret the campaign finance law. That's where we'll take our case."
Michael Simpson, chief of public disclosure in Vance's office, said Jarvis could be fined up to $500 for noncompliance, an amount that could be set aside if the election board subsequently rules in Jarvis' favor.
Dawn Alexander, a council aide to Jarvis, said that Vance's estimate of payments made on Jarvis' behalf by Citicorp were inflated and that the two New York trips for which Citicorp paid were part of a "fact-finding" mission on a model housing project unrelated to banking legislation that comes before Jarvis' committee.
Jarvis previously repaid $712 in Citicorp expenditures arising from those trips, but balked at Vance's subsequent ruling that she repay an additional $1,830 disclosed by Citicorp in April in a statement filed with the campaign finance office. Crawford has reimbursed Citicorp for $1,042, the full amount required under Vance's orders.
Jarvis' lawyers have maintained that her refusal to reimburse Citicorp for the additional expenses is not a "willful or knowing violation" of the District's campaign finance law. Citicorp's payments, they said, "do not constitute reportable gifts" as defined by law.
But Simpson said that the Office of Campaign Finance believes that a Citicorp-financed fact-finding mission "falls under the same category as gifts because council members should not accept travel, gifts or any gratuities."