In a major victory for D.C. Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics ruled unanimously yesterday that she did not violate campaign finance law when she accepted trips and theater tickets from New York banking giant Citicorp in 1985 and 1986 without disclosing them.

Attorneys representing Office of Campaign Finance Director Keith A. Vance, Jarvis' accuser, were publicly scolded during the three-hour hearing as board Chairman Edward W. Norton rejected their argument that Jarvis "knowingly and willfully" violated District law by accepting gifts from lobbyists.

Instead, the board found that Jarvis' New York visits fell under the definition of fact-finding trips as established by federal law, and therefore the considerations she received were legitimate.

Such trips are acceptable for members of Congress, who are required by law to disclose the acceptance of payments and reimbursements connected with the trips. The board, however, rejected Vance's argument that Jarvis should have noted the Citicorp transactions on her annual D.C. government financial disclosure documents, saying that District law and federal law do not agree on this point.

District law prohibits elected officials from accepting gifts from lobbyists of more than $100 in value. Citicorp's expenses on Jarvis' behalf totaled $2,542, of which Jarvis subsequently repaid $712. Jarvis had argued that Citicorp's expenditures were of a fact-finding nature as defined by federal law.

"What we have here is {Vance} saying, 'I've got a different interpretation,' even though the legislative history indicates that Congress makes that determination," Norton said of the definition of what constitutes a gift. "I don't understand why there is a question, frankly."

Neither Vance nor Jarvis was present for yesterday's hearing, but Jarvis said later that she had been vindicated by the board's action.

"I am pleased with the decision of the Board of Elections and Ethics, which confirmed for the public that I was right all along on the merits," she said.

The U.S. attorney's office, meanwhile, is investigating whether Jarvis used her position as chairman of the council's Housing and Economic Development Committee to obtain favorable treatment from banks and used her influence to direct consulting business to Woodrow Boggs Jr., a social companion, according to sources.

Boggs received $60,150 in such fees from Citicorp in 1985 and 1986 when the New York bank was lobbying District and federal officials for approval to buy a D.C. bank.

After the hearing yesterday, Vance said that he would make a final determination of whether there are any other matters pending against Jarvis when he reviews the hearing transcript and a written copy of the board decision.

"As director of campaign finance for the District of Columbia, I support any decision that the board renders," he said.

In the hearing, Albert Turkus, Jarvis' attorney, was harshly critical of Vance's handling of the case, saying that Vance's contention that Jarvis was flouting the law was "offensive and inappropriate."

"There was absolutely no basis for Mr. Vance to parade around in public his opinion of Mrs. Jarvis as he has," Turkus said. "I am offended that Mr. Vance used his office to impugn the integrity of Mrs. Jarvis when there is a legal question to be resolved."

Norton also criticized the Office of Campaign Finance, saying that Vance exceeded his authority and usurped the three-member election board's responsibility to interpret the law.

In May, after Jarvis' repayment of $712 to Citicorp, the council member balked at Vance's ruling that she repay $1,830 in additional expenses disclosed by Citicorp, an amount that her lawyers said yesterday is still under dispute.

Jarvis took trips to New York in October 1985, during which Citicorp picked up some of her expenses, including $1,181 in hired drivers and cars, lodging and air fare totaling $375, $50 in theater tickets, a $43 pen set and $244 Steuben glass apple.

Norton said Jarvis' repayment of some of this amount demonstrates that she tried to obey the law without jeopardizing her appeal of Vance's ruling.