Newly released documents from the University of the District of Columbia show the institution has spent $491,405 since April 2007 on repairs and other projects at the president’s residence.

The records are being shared as part of a broader review of money spent by and for President Allen Sessoms, whose expenses were the subject of an unflattering audit earlier this spring.

UDC seems to be trying to get ahead of the story, posting documents and narrative explanations to an “Answers” page on its Web site.

The latest documents detail a series of repairs to the presidential residence, which UDC owns and Sessoms occupies, at 3520 Rittenhouse St. NW in tony Chevy Chase.

Are they excessive or lavish? Well, the quantity of money spent is certainly large, including a single $225,762 expense to reconstruct a masonry retaining wall that apparently collapsed. Tens of thousands seem to have been spent on landscaping.

But university spokesman Alan Etter says most of the money was spent simply to replace things that had been damaged or destroyed.

The home, purchased by UDC in 1981 for a few hundred thousand dollars, is now worth $1.6 million. (“A good investment,” Etter notes.) It sat unoccupied from 2006 to late 2008, when Sessoms moved in.

“Aggressive maintenance” was not being done, Etter said. A portion of a retaining wall on the west edge of the property collapsed into a neighbor’s yard, endangering her grandchildren. A roof leak significantly damaged walls, floor, carpeting, cabinetry and other structures.

“The place was unlivable” when Sessoms moved in, Etter said.

“This is money that was spent to repair and upgrade a university property. This is a university property. We own this.”

Sessoms, like most college presidents, is provided a house and car under the terms of his contract. Presidential residences are seldom humble.

Etter contends the university is being “singled out and scrutinized for activities that happen at every college in the country.”

 An informal survey on this blog found that at least some of Sessoms’ expenses fall outside the norm. For example, he may be the only college president in the area who routinely flies first-class.

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