The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct yesterday voted to conduct a preliminary inquiry into "certain public allegations against Rep. Frederick W. Richmond" (D-N.Y.), according to Chairman Louis Stokes (D-Ohio).
Stokes, in a prepared statement, said, "This action, it should be stressed, does not amount to any formal charges at this time."
A spokesman in Richmond's Brooklyn office said there would be "no statement" on the announcement.
The House ethics committee has been under public pressure to deal with a series of published allegations against the four-term, millionaire liberal congressman, who has been the focus of a five-month federal grand jury investigation in Brooklyn.
Among the allegations being investigated:
Whether Richmond knowingly used his influence in 1980 and 1981 to help an escaped Massachusetts convict get a job on the House payroll under an assumed name. The man is back in custody after being arrested for male prostitution in New York City while in possession of Richmond's car. It is a federal crime knowingly to aid an interstate fugitive.
Whether Richmond or his campaign aides violated federal election laws by using employes of a company of which he is a director and major stockholder.
Whether Richmond asked staff aides to purchase drugs for him.
Less than an hour before Stokes' statement was released, the chairman was informed by a New York lawyer representing Richmond's constituents that a formal sealed complaint against the Brooklyn Democrat had been sent to some House members, including several in the New York delegation.
According to sources, the complaint calls for an investigation by the House committee of specific allegations against Richmond that it says could involve 10 violations of federal laws and House rules.
The allegation that most members of Congress contacted yesterday voiced concern over involves Richmond's actions on behalf of Earl W. Randolph Jr., who escaped from a Massachusetts prison in July, 1980, while serving an 18-year sentence for assault with intent to murder.
Richmond, according to published reports, has been acquainted with the 28-year-old Randolph at least five years. During Randolph's prison term, which began in May, 1977, Richmond's office repeatedly telephoned prison authorities seeking information and help for Randolph.
Randolph's whereabouts from his escape until Jan. 5, 1981, are unknown. However, on that date he went to work, under the name John McLoughlin, in the House folding room on the payroll of the House doorkeeper.
Richmond recommended him for that patronage job and, in so doing, bypassed the usual practice of New York House Democrats, according to congressional sources.
Richmond also selected an apartment in Washington for the man, according to Robert J. Walden, who owned the apartment building.
McLoughlin worked in the folding room until Feb. 28, 1981, according to House records. He left the apartment around that time, according to Walden, after the owner complained to Richmond that he would "call the sheriff" to have McLoughlin removed because of his alleged drinking and destructive nature.
On March 25, 1981, according to reports, McLoughlin was arrested in New York after soliciting an undercover policeman and suggesting they perform a sexual act in a car that turned out to be Richmond's. In a phone call that night, according to reports, Richmond confirmed to New York police that he knew McLoughlin and that he had given him permission to use the car.
Subsequent police checks determined that McLoughlin was the escaped convict Randolph. He was returned to prison in Massachusetts but now is in the federal penitentiary in Danbury, Conn., in custody of the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, who heads the grand jury investigating Richmond.