Top D.C. officials who oversee seven of the 10 separate discretionary fund accounts authorized by District law said yesterday that they save records of expenditures indefinitely, contrary to the practice followed by the administrators of Mayor Marion Barry's annual $17,500 ceremonial fund.
D.C. Corporation Counsel Frederick D. Cooke Jr. said this week that two years' worth of records detailing payments made from the mayor's account were destroyed "in the normal course of business," a practice that Barry defended as within the law.
A federal grand jury is seeking the records as part of its effort to determine whether the mayor's fund was used to pay personal expenses of the mayor or his wife Effi, including the use of $1,500 to help buy a fur coat. Barry, who has blamed aides for faulty bookkeeping procedures, also said that $1,850 from the ceremonial fund was used as a temporary loan to his political adviser, Anita Bonds, in 1984.
Financial records for other branches of D.C. government authorized to maintain discretionary accounts for top officials under the same statute -- including three in the court system, and one each for the public library, the chairman of the D.C. Council, the city administrator, the school superintendent and the University of the District of Columbia -- have not been destroyed, administrators said, in accordance with general accounting principles.
"We have all the records dating back to 1984" when the library's discretionary fund was established, said D.C. Public Library Director Hardy R. Franklin. "Any time I hear there is an audit being done in the District of Columbia, I know darn well we are going to get some of those audits in the library, so we have all of the records."
Franklin said that his discretionary account, which is budgeted at $2,000 annually, is used to pay for entertainment for dignitaries and other visitors to the library as well as for staff functions and "the support of activities related to my work as director."
Franklin's description of how his records are maintained does not differ substantially from accounts offered by City Administrator Thomas M. Downs, D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke and D.C. court system executive officer Larry Polansky. A spokeswoman for the D.C. school superintendent could not be reached for comment.
The University of the District of Columbia also is allowed by law to maintain a representational fund for its president.
Expenditures from that fund played a central role in the controversy that forced UDC President Robert L. Green to resign after records showed that he used that account and another larger one to pay personal expenses not related to his university duties.
That fund, which was allotted $15,000 annually while Green was university president, is now budgeted at $7,500 for interim President Claude A. Ford. The amount of the fund for incoming President Rafael A. Cortada will not be determined until he takes office Oct. 1, according to a UDC spokesman.
"As a matter of policy, all records are kept in perpetuity," said UDC spokesman John Britton. "The vice president for finance keeps three years' worth physically in his office and anything else is retired through the archives. Our practice is that we do not destroy financial records."
The 12 D.C. Council members aside from Clarke have no ceremonial fund, according to council secretary Russell Smith. But council members technically could have access to one of the mayor's two accounts.
When the 1988 fiscal year budget takes effect Oct. 1, the council and the mayor will each be allotted separate $25,000 representational fund appropriations to cover entertainment expenses for visiting dignitaries or other "eminent" city visitors as part of the D.C. budget.
Beverly Burke, special counsel in Cooke's office, said yesterday that it is possible that the 1985 law that prohibits destruction of city records may not have been in effect when the missing records, from 1982 and 1984, were destroyed.
The mayor's ceremonial fund, which has been in existence since the 1940s, was "not meant to be audited," she said.