D.C. Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7) is the focus of a wide-ranging federal investigation into alleged misuse of D.C. government funds, according to sources familiar with the probe.
The full scope of the probe is unknown but includes at least three areas: city contracts awarded to Crawford's associates, expenditures from the council member's constituent service fund and the alleged use of council employes for his private business interests, according to sources and subpoenas.
One former employe of Crawford's office, who has been given limited immunity in return for her cooperation, has alleged that she and two other city employes worked for Crawford's private real estate company, Crawford Edgewood Managers Inc., on government time, sources said.
Prosecutors have questioned one city contractor about whether he paid Crawford money in exchange for contracts to survey attitudes about drug treatment programs, the contractor said. City officials said a grand jury also has subpoenaed records of $208,000 in city contracts awarded to Classic Security Inc., a firm Crawford founded.
Some of Crawford's council employes, in addition, have been questioned about JAM Corp., a public relations firm that produced a newsletter for Crawford and hired a close friend of his as a consultant on a city government contract, sources said.
Crawford has said he has done nothing wrong, but has declined to comment further on the investigation. His attorneys, Ronald G. Precup and Martin Baach, said they could not comment.
Sources said the probe stems in part from allegations made by Joyce Taylor, a $27,775-a-year council aide to Crawford from 1982 to 1986, who approached federal investigators after Crawford filed a police report in February alleging that she and others stole $20,450 from Classic Security.
A source said Taylor, who was listed as an officer of the firm from 1983 to 1986, acknowledged stealing company funds, and another source said she was given "use immunity" in exchange for her cooperation. Use immunity means that none of Taylor's statements can be used against her as evidence of a crime.
Taylor alleged that Crawford arranged for Sherrell Briscoe, a friend of Crawford's, to be hired as a consultant to JAM Corp. on a city contract while Briscoe was employed full time by the Department of Human Services in 1984, sources said.
Jeanne Clarke Harris, who heads JAM, confirmed in a recent interview that her firm employed Briscoe as a paid consultant on a contract with the city's Office of Business and Economic Development. Harris said the office "assigned" Briscoe to the contract, but gave no other details.
Kwasi Holman, executive director of the office, said he did not recall the JAM contract or any consultant work performed by Briscoe. He said he would provide additional information in response to a Freedom of Information Act request for the contract documents.
Briscoe, who is now employed by Crawford's council office at $22,183 a year, did not return a reporter's phone calls.
Records of Crawford's constituent service fund, which have been turned over to the grand jury, show JAM also received $3,500 from the fund between 1983 and 1985 to produce a newsletter from Crawford's office. It could not be learned whether the investigators' interest in the constituent service fund is related to the payments to JAM.
Constituent service funds are composed of contributions from corporations and individuals and generally are used by council members for constituent-related activities.
Sources said Taylor told investigators that she and two other employes worked for Crawford Edgewood Managers Inc. while being paid by the city government to provide services to Crawford's constituents and perform other council-related tasks.
She also alleged that another employe worked at his beauty salon while being paid a full-time salary as a council worker for Crawford, sources said. The employes whom Taylor named have said they did nothing wrong.
Crawford has told acquaintances that Taylor performed some services for his real estate firm while assigned to his council office. But the council member said Taylor worked only during periods of administrative leave and was paid for her services by the real estate company.
Crawford has told acquaintances that the other employes whose records have been subpoenaed used space in his private offices but performed government-related work, including providing services to constituents.
The Crawford Edgewood firm owns or manages eight apartment buildings -- all federally insured or subsidized -- and six other buildings, including single-family residences and office properties.
Three of the four employes named by Taylor were hired by city agencies and then detailed to work for Crawford on council-related matters -- a practice that is permitted under city personnel regulations.
One of them, Charles Freeman, said he set up his office at Southern Hills Apartments, an apartment building then owned by Crawford's firm, because employes at the Human Services Department, which paid his $21,299-a-year salary, "were snatching my chairs."
Freeman said he occasionally helped with some business at Southern Hills on a volunteer basis, but "did my other work."
Freeman said that he has no records of his precise hours, but that he worked nights and weekends as well as days trying to find a location for a drug treatment center, a government-related task.
His written work consisted of four reports, one of which is nearly identical to a survey done under a human services contract the previous year by Charles Dorsey, a friend of Crawford's. A second report by Freeman is very similar to Dorsey's contract proposal.
Freeman said his reports were actually reviews of Dorsey's work that he provided at Crawford's request. "I should have footnoted it. It was just poor judgment on my part," Freeman said.
Fred Maples, another employe named by Taylor, said in a interview earlier this year that "there's no truth" to Taylor's allegation that he worked for the real estate company on government time.
Maples, who was detailed to Crawford's office from the Department of Recreation, said he attended community meetings, often at night, and fully earned his $6.99 per hour government pay.
Eugene Osborne also denied Taylor's allegation that he collected government pay for work performed at Pizzazz, a beauty salon he owns, while he was detailed from the human services agency to Crawford's council office.
Osborne, who received a government salary of $17,710 a year, said, "I worked for the city for whatever time I was supposed to work" providing constituent services "from A to Z."
Dorsey, in his grand jury testimony several weeks ago concerning his survey contracts, said he was asked how he obtained $70,000 worth of contracts from the Human Services Department and what work he performed.
Dorsey said the prosecutor specifically asked if he ever lent or gave any money to Crawford or to David E. Rivers, former human services director, in exchange for the contracts. He said he testified that he once borrowed $1,000 from a friend to lend Crawford when the council member called from Atlantic City requesting a loan. He said Crawford paid the money back within a few days.
City officials said the grand jury has also subpoenaed records of $208,000 in security work awarded by the Department of Housing and Community Development to Classic Security between 1985 and 1987. The contract called for the firm to provide security at the agency's administrative offices and another building.
Crawford set up the company in December 1980 with the understanding that the profits would go to certain employes of his real estate firm whom he named as officers of the security company, according to Larry Frelow, the security firm's former president. The company rented office space from the Crawford Edgewood firm and Crawford advised the real estate firm on its operations, Frelow said.
Classic Security officials reported on a 1984 financial statement that the firm owed Crawford Edgewood $18,971, but did not disclose why.
The council member is listed as a director of the company from 1980 to 1982, and his D.C. government financial disclosure form shows he initially invested $3,000 in the firm. He has told acquaintances that he subsequently provided finances to keep the company afloat and feels responsible for the firm but has never received any benefits from it.
In the February police report alleging theft from the company, Crawford is listed as the complainant and the firm is identified as "a subsidiary" of Crawford Edgewood.