City record-keeping officials said yesterday that Mayor Marion Barry's $17,500-a-year ceremonial fund may have been subject to stricter accounting controls that would have prevented destruction of expenditure records before a grand jury could review them.
Otis H. Troupe, the District's auditor, said in an interview that under "normal, prudent" accounting procedures, the records should not have been destroyed for at least five years.
And D.C. public records administrator Philip Ogilvie said that because specific rules were not drawn up to govern the ceremonial fund's records, "general principles of record management" hold that the fund must comply with the rules that apply to other agencies.
Other city agencies are subject, to a 1985 D.C. law that prohibits destruction of government records, for up to 10 years in some cases.
Barry and D.C. Corporation Counsel Frederick D. Cooke Jr. said this week that records for a two-year period, from 1982 to 1984, were destroyed "in the normal course of business" before a federal grand jury had requested them. Barry said the fund was not subject to normal record-keeping procedures.
The panel is trying to determine whether the fund was used to pay personal expenses of the mayor or his wife Effi.
Barry said in an interview Wednesday that an aide may have used $1,500 from the fund to help buy a fur coat for his wife. He also disclosed that money from the fund was used for a $1,850 loan in 1984 to Anita Bonds, the mayor's principal political adviser. Bonds said that loan was repaid within a week and that she had not known the money came from the fund.
The ceremonial fund, made up primarily of money intended for use in entertaining and providing gifts for dignitaries, is maintained in two accounts. But Barry has said the fund is "open-ended," and subject only to the restriction that it not be used for his personal expenses.
Troupe said that the records should have been kept longer and that expenses should have been better documented.
"There should be no checks made out to cash," Troupe said. "All primary source receipts should be maintained and all expense documents maintained not less than five years and preferably seven years."
In addition, he said, running logs or account journals should have been kept each quarter of the fiscal year.
A D.C. law enacted in 1985 required that new record-keeping procedures be drawn up for city agencies, including the offices of the mayor and secretary of the District. The law established guidelines for the retention of government documents ranging from official speeches to cost-accounting reports.
The law stipulates that "any record created or received by the District in the course of official business . . . shall not be destroyed, sold, transferred or disposed of in any manner," unless a specific exception is made by an agency or through rules approved by the city's records retention committee.
General accounting ledgers, for example, are supposed to be retained for 10 years after the close of the applicable fiscal year. And files pertaining to nonmonetary ceremonial acknowledgments, such as honorary proclamations, cannot be destroyed for three years.
There is no specific reference in the rules to the length of time that records pertaining to the ceremonial fund should be kept. But Ogilvie said he tried to obtain a clearer understanding in a February memo in which he asked whether the ceremonial fund was subject to the 1985 law. Robert Robinson, the ceremonial fund's administrator and former Barry aide, never responded to the memo, Ogilvie said.
Robinson, whom Barry criticized this week for sloppy record-keeping, has declined to comment on questions concerning the fund.
There is no such separate ceremonial fund in Baltimore, an aide to Mayor Clarence H. (Du) Burns said yesterday, but Burns has access to a personal expense account of less than $6,000, which is accounted for as a line item in the budget for his office.
Richmond City Clerk Joseph Ivey said that the mayor and City Council there share a $6,800 budget to pay for gifts such as pewter cups and box lunches for evening meetings. Records of such expenditures must be maintained for at least five years after an audit, which occurs every third year.