The U.S. Office of Special Counsel announced yesterday that it has charged D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams's chief of staff with violating the Hatch Act by urging government employees to work for the mayor's 2002 reelection campaign.
The case against Kelvin J. Robinson, which seeks to remove him from office, comes just days after he announced that he will resign at the end of the month to take a job in the private sector.
Robinson, 43, said his decision to step down after three years as Williams's aide was not influenced by the investigation. He is leaving to become president and chief executive of EmergeDC, a Washington affiliate for a Florida-based business and government consulting firm.
A spokesman for the Office of Special Counsel said that Robinson's departure would not stop the proceedings and that he would face a hearing before the three-member Merit Systems Protection Board within the next year. If the board agrees that Robinson violated the law, he could be barred from federal or city government employment for five years and a notation would be placed in his city employment record.
Robinson, the case states, improperly used "his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election" and solicited volunteer services from subordinates for political purposes.
Cathy Deeds, a spokeswoman for the Office of Special Counsel, said that Robinson or his attorney, Vandy L. Jamison Jr., was notified Friday by certified mail.
"That's news to me. I've not heard a thing from them," Robinson said yesterday. "I have no comment on it one way or another."
The Hatch Act, which governs political activity by federal and D.C. employees, prohibits solicitation of campaign contributions, including money and donated labor.
Jamison said he heard about the charges yesterday from a reporter. He said it was "outrageous and inappropriate" that the Office of Special Counsel spent 11/2 years investigating the matter but filed charges only days after Robinson announced his departure from city government.
As for the charges that Robinson tried to use his influence to affect the election, Jamison said, "We've never responded to these allegations because they are anonymous." He added that Robinson had agreed to meet with federal investigators Aug. 10 to discuss the matter.
Tony Bullock, spokesman for the mayor, also questioned the timing of the charges. "It appears the OSC action is a reaction to the Robinson resignation," he said.
The Office of Special Counsel began investigating in February 2003 after The Washington Post reported on an August 2002 meeting Robinson held with about 200 city employees.
During that meeting, Robinson told employees to "Get out your checkbooks" and urged them to work for Williams's campaign, according to several officials who attended the meeting.
Williams's campaign was facing urgency to raise money and support at the time because the mayor had decided to wage an expensive write-in bid for renomination after being thrown off the ballot for petition irregularities. The investigation later widened to include allegations that Robinson also urged government employees to volunteer to work for the campaign.
Williams (D) was present at the August 2002 meeting, and he testified on the matter before federal investigators this year. Robinson has said that his comments were misunderstood and that he did not intend to solicit contributions for the campaign.
According to the complaint filed by the Office of Special Counsel, Robinson attended two training sessions concerning the Hatch Act, which were sponsored by that agency in early 2002. Therefore, investigators determined, Robinson had knowledge of the Hatch Act's prohibitions before the August 2002 campaign rally, the complaint states.
The Office of Special Counsel is continuing to investigate the allegations that Robinson sought monetary donations, a spokesman said.
Alfreda Davis, who was Robinson's deputy, was named to replace him, beginning Aug. 1.