Four members of the D.C. Board of Education have asked board President Wilma R. Harvey (Ward 1) to resign as head of the panel because of allegations that she made an aide do research for a project not related to school business.
Harvey yesterday denied any wrong doing and vowed not to step down as president or give up the board seat she has held for 14 years--longer than any of her colleagues.
"I've done nothing illegal, immoral or unethical, and I stand by that," Harvey said.
She said she would let her attorney handle any investigation resulting from the allegations and would concentrate on leading the board's return to power. The much-criticized panel was stripped of its authority over school management 2 1/2 years ago by the D.C. financial control board, but is scheduled to resume its leadership June 30, 2000.
Harvey's critics said the board's uncertain status makes it especially important that the members' conduct be above reproach.
Ward 2 representative Westy Byrd has accused Harvey of spending much of June 25 working on personal business with administrative assistant Pat Bond. In a letter to Harvey on Monday, Byrd alleged that Bond and Harvey were printing out materials from Bond's computer and placing them into a notebook and that the material on Bond's computer screen was related to summer travel Harvey was planning, not school business.
"There is a whole lot of speculation around the question of whether the board is capable of policing and governing itself," said board Vice President Dwight E. Singleton (Ward 4), who was elected in November. "As new board members, we have to make it very clear--to the public, to the control board--that this type of action is completely unacceptable."
Singleton, Byrd and Ward 3 representative Don Reeves have signed a letter calling for Harvey's resignation and are circulating it among their colleagues. At-large member Tonya Vidal Kinlow, who leads the board's charter school subcommittee and has won the respect of top city officials, said she is planning to sign the letter--both because of the allegations and because of other problems she sees with Harvey's leadership.
"We have image issues, and I don't think that we're being served well in that regard," Kinlow said. "Leadership should work to facilitate unity within the organization, and that doesn't seem to happen often."
Those campaigning to oust Harvey, however, may have leadership problems of their own.
Reeves, who served as board president two years ago, faxed a memo to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance on Tuesday asking for an investigation into Harvey's alleged misuse of Bond's time.
At a board "caucus" called by Harvey yesterday to discuss the allegations, members agreed to wait and see if the campaign finance office would launch a probe. But Reeves's fax--signed only "Members of the D.C. Board of Education" and including a letter from Byrd to Harvey outlining the allegations--did not follow the campaign finance office's rules. Among other things, complaints must be signed and verified under oath, with the full name and address of both the accuser and the subject of the complaint.
In a letter faxed to Byrd late yesterday, General Counsel Kathy S. Williams said a formal complaint was needed in order for the campaign finance office to pursue the matter.
Reeves said the allegation will be rewritten "in the proper format" and resubmitted as soon as possible.