D.C. school board President Wilma R. Harvey has been reprimanded by the Board of Elections and Ethics, which ruled that the longtime elected official improperly directed a staff member to help plan a personal trip to Martha's Vineyard last summer.
Allegations that Harvey used government time and resources in planning her trip led a faction of the board to try to oust her as president in July, setting off a nasty public battle. The effort to remove her ended in a compromise that allowed Harvey to complete her one-year term as president, provided she meets weekly with an executive oversight committee. Harvey's term as president ends this month.
Harvey, who has represented Ward 1 on the board since 1985 and is up for reelection next year, denied any wrongdoing when the allegations were made. She did not return phone messages seeking comment yesterday.
An elections board official said the investigation consisted of an affidavit by school board member Westy Byrd (Ward 2) outlining the allegations and a notarized response submitted by Harvey.
Harvey admitted that a clerk at the board, Pat Bond, provided her with information about "sights and attractions" on Martha's Vineyard. Some of the information was taken from the Internet using Harvey's office computer. Harvey also admitted that Bond typed additional information about accommodations from notes Harvey provided.
Harvey said that the information was typed on paper she bought herself and that "no Board of Education supplies were used." Although the trip was personal, Harvey denied that her use of Bond's time posed an ethical conflict or undermined her integrity as president of the board.
The elections board thought it had few options for punishing Harvey, General Counsel Kathy S. Williams said. "We believe a reprimand and admonishment was all we could do here. Our hands were tied."
Any further action, Williams said, would have to be taken by the school board after a full hearing.
Byrd said she hoped the board would discuss such an option. But others on the panel are likely to want to avoid further controversy. The school board is fighting to regain powers taken from it three years ago by the D.C. financial control board. The school board also is facing an attempt by the D.C. Council to reduce the number of board members and change the way they are chosen.
"I'm glad that the . . . process works to support the idea that this is not acceptable activity," Byrd said. "I think it's the first step in raising the bar for the Board of Education."