The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance is investigating whether city government workers are violating conflict-of-interest laws to aid Mayor Marion Barry's campaign for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council.
Marianne Niles, the Campaign Finance Office's director, said yesterday that the inquiry is focusing on whether D.C. government supervisors are having their employees attend meetings to hear Barry promote his campaign.
Niles also said her office is reviewing allegations that city government workers have violated the federal Hatch Act, which bars government employees from participating in partisan elections, to help Barry in his council bid. Niles said she intends to send those allegations to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the Hatch Act.
"We have received numerous complaints of Hatch Act violations in the mayor's campaign, and we have reports that supervisors in the D.C. government are arranging conferences for Barry," Niles said.
The Campaign Finance Office's investigation follows a week of visits that Barry has made to city agencies, the latest among many recent moves that show him using the full power of his incumbency to boost his campaign.
Meanwhile yesterday, a poll conducted for WJLA-TV (Channel 7) showed Barry trailing two opponents for the two at-large seats on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The poll of 600 likely voters, conducted this week by KRC/Communications Research, showed Barry supported by 27 percent of the respondents. Council incumbent Hilda H.M. Mason (Statehood) was supported by 42 percent, while Linda W. Cropp, the Democratic nominee, had 38 percent. The WJLA poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Eight candidates are running for the two at-large council seats. The top two vote-getters win the seats.
In recent weeks, Barry's rivals in the race repeatedly have alleged that he is encouraging city workers to help his campaign. Barry dismissed their claims again yesterday, after speaking with 100 employees in the city's Department of Employment Services. "If they have a complaint, they should file it," Barry said. "I'm tired of all their whining and crying."
Barry said he met employment services workers to "thank them for being strong and steadfast" on the job. He denied his stop was part of his campaign, but said he did mention he was a candidate.
"I was just educating people about what the issues are in the election," Barry said.
Since Monday, Barry has met with employees at the city's departments of corrections, housing and public works, and with fire and ambulance workers. At each stop, Barry has praised the staffs for their work, but also noted his candidacy.
"I would characterize the meetings as end-of-term 'thank yous,' " said Lurma Rackley, Barry's press secretary. "It really isn't unusual."
On Saturday, Barry had a D.C. police escort during a campaign motorcade through Ward 8. Several city officials also helped lead the motorcade.
Last month, an official in the city's Employment Services Office, Roscoe Grant, held a reception for Barry. And on Thursday, WRC-TV (Channel 4) reported that Phil Watson, an official in Barry's constituent services office, was working full time in his campaign office.
Since Barry is competing as an independent in the council race, he is not bound by Hatch Act restrictions. Everyone else in his administration is bound, officials at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said. But Barry's rivals contend some officials are ignoring that rule.
"We have no doubt they're doing it, and it's clearly unethical," said Jim Harvey, an independent candidate.
Several city employees said yesterday they have received Barry letters this week asking for their votes. It was unclear how many letters were sent, or how his campaign got the addresses.
Staff writers Michael Abramowitz and R.H. Melton contributed to this report.