The chairman of the city's Board of Elections and Ethics yesterday dismissed as "unsubstantiated" allegations in a report by D.C. Inspector General Charles C. Maddox that the board has failed to enforce campaign finance laws and showed favoritism to a D.C. Council member.
Benjamin F. Wilson, chairman of the elections board, which oversees the Office of Campaign Finance, released his response to Maddox to the media after details of Maddox's confidential report were broadcast on a local television news program. And council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5) accused Maddox of being vindictive toward city officials who have sought to scrutinize the city's top investigator.
It was another public confrontation between Maddox and Orange, who has led efforts to oust Maddox from his position. Last week, Orange introduced a bill that would make Maddox ineligible to hold the job of city inspector.
Orange has said that Maddox has been ineffective at rooting out mismanagement in the government and is too cozy with Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D).
Maddox, in his report to the Board of Elections, questioned why finance officials did not require Orange to file additional paperwork on personal loans he made to his campaign. Officials said there is no such requirement.
Other allegations ranged from the campaign finance office failing to audit council candidates' campaign documents, to failing to fire an employee suspected of stealing $3,000 from the petty cash fund, to awarding non-competitive contracts and allowing the agency's director, Cecily E. Collier-Montgomery, to be placed on unauthorized-leave-with-pay status. Officials said she was given advance leave for medical reasons.
"While many of the allegations were unsubstantiated, or involved activities that fell [within the law], all allegations were thoroughly examined for any real or perceived shortcomings," Wilson said yesterday in a letter to Maddox included with the board's 11-page report.
The elections board released its statement after Maddox's confidential letter to the board was aired on WRC-TV (Channel 4).
"We're going to review Wilson's response," said Gloria P. Johnson, spokeswoman for the inspector general. "We'll weigh the sufficiency of his information against the information we have obtained. Based on the facts, we will issue a final report."
Johnson said she could not disclose the status of the investigation into the elections board and the campaign finance office or whether the inspector general is investigating Orange.
"These allegations still remain to be substantiated by us," Johnson said. "We're going to follow the facts wherever they lead us, irrespective of the subject matter or the subjects."
On Tuesday, the D.C. Council will vote on emergency legislation that would change the qualifications of the inspector general's job to require that the person be a graduate of an accredited law school and a member of the D.C. Bar for at least seven years, or be a licensed certified public accountant for seven years. Maddox did not graduate from an accredited law school and has been a member of the D.C. Bar for less than a year.
In January, the inspector general issued a report to Wilson outlining several allegations of mismanagement and misconduct by the heads of agencies under his authority.
The confidential report stated that the accusations involved the failure to enforce certain finance laws effectively and impartially. Maddox said the issues needed to be addressed because "they may relate to the integrity of the two agencies" and to the "sufficiency of the board's oversight."
Maddox said that the investigation into the elections board and the campaign finance office began last April after two people alerted them to the allegations. It began with a review of whether the executive directors of the two agencies had received improper salary increases. A grand jury was convened to investigate, but it recessed after several months and issued no indictments.
The report also stated that a council member failed to file the proper documents for loans to his campaign and that the money had been used for personal use.
Orange said he was the person referred to in the report. He said he had been questioned about five personal loans, totaling $36,000, he made to his campaign during his first bid for the council in 1998. He said the loans were properly disclosed to the campaign finance office, which had reviewed his contributions.
"This was all disclosed," Orange said. "There was no wrongdoing. It's nothing there."
Wilson's report said that Orange had properly disclosed all of the loans.
The inspector general and the council member have been at odds since November 2001, when Maddox sought to expand the powers of his office. Last year, the council voted unanimously no-confidence in the inspector general. Some council members questioned why it took Maddox's office more than a year and $1 million to investigate fundraising activities by the mayor's office.