Charkebe Drew Jarvis contends that current investigations of her 1984 D.C. Council campaign operations are little more than political harassment by Mayor Barry -- whose job she sought four years ago and may still want. But regardless of what comes of the police and prosecutors' reviews, they are serious business -- based on an official audit by the Office of Campaign Finance that raises legitimate questions about the management, record-keeping and spending by her top campaign aides.
It is not the first time that Mrs. Jarvis has been questioned by this office about her financial reporting procedures, either. The campaign office noted last fall that Mrs. Jarvis had not filed finance records on her constituent fund for the previous five years; and that in turn followed a notification to her that she had failed to file seven overdue campaign-contribution reports. Because public disclosure is an essential element of the political system here -- and because it happens to be the law -- the Jarvis campaign has some explaining to do.
According to the latest audit issued by the campaign office, officials of Mrs. Jarvis' '84 campaign made improper expenditures of more than $172,000, "willfully misrepresented" financial transactions and filed "false and misleading statements" by failing to report total receipts and expenditures. The city's campaign finance office says that these and other findings are enough to warrant the investigation under way by the police department's Public Integrity Unit as well as consideration by the city's Board of Elections and Ethics of whether to refer the case to the U.S. attorney's office for prosecution.
So what is Mrs. Jarvis' reaction? She charges that the audit was issued at the behest of Mayor Barry. A Jarvis aide, meanwhile, said the campaign committee had hired an attorney "to reaffirm . . . the responsiveness and validity of documents submitted to the office," adding that "in the interim, council member Jarvis will continue to focus on issues of importance to the city."
The questions raised in the audit certainly should head her list of those "issues of importance." But that isn't at all clear from her statements so far. When Council Chairman David Clarke said "if, after a hearing and adjudication, there is a finding of serious violation, the council may want to consider taking appropriate action," Mrs. Jarvis released a statement saying "Mr. Clarke has lost touch with reality." If that's the most pertinent reply that Mrs. Jarvis can make, the city's interest in pursuing investigations is all the more understandable.