Bowser’s use of council phone for campaign calls was “de minimis,” investigators found. (Michael S. Williamson/WASHINGTON POST)

McDuffie stood accused of illegally campaigning inside the walls of the D.C. jail, whose inmates can cast absentee ballots, ahead of the May 15 special election he won.

In interviews or written statements, the city’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice, the executive director of the D.C. Board of Elections, the elections board manager in charge of jail voting, the city’s director of Returning Citizen Affairs, a deputy jail warden, three corrections officers and McDuffie himself said that the anonymous allegations were groundless, and the complaint was dismissed in a July 6 order.

In the Bowser matter, Ward 4 activist Keith Jarrell accused her in March of using her council cell phone for political dealings, pointing to calls made to and from her campaign office — in seeming violation of the ban on using government resources for political purposes.

But Bowser pointed out through her lawyers that under council rules, council members may use official resources “for the coordination of scheduling to avoid conflicts between Council and campaign activities.” And, she said, “her best recollection of the telephone calls in question was that they were made while en route between official and campaign functions to advise of possible late arrivals or to coordinate between Council and Campaign schedules.”

Campaign finance officials found that the campaign calls accounted for five of 349 calls made and nine of 1,521 minutes used during the period in question. They concluded Bowser’s “brief use of her government-issued cell phone to coordinate between Council and Campaign schedule was clearly de minimis and does not constitute an improper use of government resources.” Jarrell’s complaint was dismissed on July 10.

Jarrell said he was not aware of the council rules, but city law “clearly states you’re not to use your government-issued cell phone for political use.”

“At least we had it looked at,” he said. “Did it scare some of the others into using their personal cell phone for political calls? I hope so.”