Tuesday, September 08, 2009

DC Auditor Finds ANC 8C's Expenditure of $24,300 For Unused Office Space "an uneconomical and wasteful use of public funds". Recommends witholding $24,300 from ANC 8C Allotment.

The Advoc8te has just reviewed the Audit of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 8C for Fiscal Years 2007 Through 2009 Report (as of March 31, 2009).   The audit  was conducted a few months ago by the DC Auditor at the request of Councilmember Yvette Alexander. The Advoc8te will be posting the audit report in full shortly. For those of you who may not recall, Councilmember Alexander requested the audit after a group of ANC 8C residents approached her office earlier this year and raised serious concerns about ANC 8C operations and  finances. Included in the September 2, 2009 Audit Report of ANC 8C was a supplemental attachment, a letter dated November 7, 2008, from the DC Auditor to the DC Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The letter was  in response to a complaint that was received by the OIG regarding allegations that ANC 8C was mismanaging and possibly misappropriating ANC funds for ANC 8C office rent.

Images of the November 7, 2008 letter are included below. The contents of the letter has also been transcribed in this post. Please note that that despite the Auditor's claim in the November 7, 2008 letter that, "The ANC properly approved the disbursement of the $900 monthly rent payment" the Auditor later reversed their stance in the September 2, 2009 Audit Report of ANC 8C and now states, "The Auditor found that ANC 8C failed to produce and maintain minutes of all public meetings documenting the Commission's approval of these rental payments for the period October 1, 2006 through March 31, 2009. ANC 8C also failed to develop and approve annual spending plan budgets, during the audit period, detailing and adopting these rental payments in their annual budget."

Most importantly, the Auditor goes as far as to make the following recommendation in the September 2, 2009 Audit Report:
  • "5. Unless ratified within 90 days of this report, the Associate Chief Financial Officer for the Office of Finance and Resource Management deduct $24,300 from ANc 8C's next allotment for rent payments made without the approval of ANC 8C Commissioners."
In layman's terms that means that because the ANC 8C Commission failed (once again) to follow the law  the residents of ANC 8C stand to lose yet another $24,300 in ANC 8C funds. The Advoc8te says "another $24,300 in ANC 8C funds" because let us not forget the initial $24,300 that was spent (albeit illegally) for office space that was not used for ANC 8C business. According to the DC Auditor the initial $24,300 that was spent solely on office rent during the period of the audit  was "an uneconomical and wasteful use of public funds provided to the ANC".

These office rent payments represents 99.8% of the total disbursements by ANC 8C during the period of this most recent audit (and virtually the sole disbursements for the 2004 through 2006 audit). It is unclear exactly why these rent payments for an unused and non functional (no phone, no fax, etc.) office continue to be made, especially considering that nearly all the 2009 ANC 8C meetings achieved a quorum - ample opportunity for the Commissioners to discuss with the community the necessity of such payments for office space that is not used for ANC 8C business and which is not open to ANC 8C residents.

Lastly, there appears to be some discrepancy concerning just how long ANC 8C meetings have no longer been held at the paid office space. According to the November 7, 2008 letter and the September 2, 2009 Audit Report the ANC 8C Chairperson, Mary J. Cuthbert stated to the Auditor that ANC 8C meetings were held at the ANC Office (located at 3125 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE and according to DC records owned by Carolyn Forsythe) until they were moved in 2008 due to increased meeting attendance to the UPO Petey Greene Center where there is no cost for the meeting space. This contradicts claims by 8C residents that ANC 8C meetings had not been held at the paid office space (3125 MLK Ave SE) for quite some time (years according to some). In addition, according to an old ANC 8C website from over two terms ago residents interested in attending the ANC 8C meeting were advised to "Call for meeting location" despite the fact that the mailing address was listed on the website as 3125 MLK Avenue SE.

The Advoc8te has to ask, considering the huge shortfalls in DC Goverment budget and all the non profit organizations and city agencies that are seeing their budgets slashed, why has there not been any media coverage regarding this serious issue? Why has there not been an outcry from the DC Council regarding the ongoing financial and operational crisis that is occuring in too many of our Advisory Neighborhood Commissions? You have ANCs who are either hoarding money, mismanaging money or as alleged by the  DC Auditor stealing money

When is someone going to be held accountable? Forget the bogus earmarks for  non existant non profits. The combined budget for the 37 ANCs for fiscal year 2008 was over $850,000 - more than enough to take steps to ensure that every dollar that is being spent is being spent  wisely and legally.

November 7, 2008

Mr. Charles J. Willoughby
District of Columbia Inspector General
Office of the Inspector General
717 14th Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005

RE: Complaint Alleging that Advisory Neighborhood Commission 8C is a Sham Organization Existing Only to Misuse Municipal Funding

Dear Mr.Willoughby:

In response to your August 13, 2008 referral regarding a complaint received by you, the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor has reviewed the financial activities of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 8C to determine whether ANC 8C has misused ANC funds in violation of the ANC law.

The complainant's statement that the ANC spends no money on ANC activities, apart from rent, is correct and is supported by financial information contained in an audit report issued by this office on September 15, 2006, entitled "Audit of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 8C for Fiscal Years 2004 Through 2006, as of March 31, 2006."

Pursuant to D.C. Code, Section 1-309.13 (j) (1), the Treasurer must file with the Auditor a quarterly financial report that has been approved by a majority of Commissioners at an ANC public meeting. The financial report contains details regarding funds received and funds disbursed during the quarter, and each quarterly report contains copies of bank statements and cancelled checks to support the ANC's receipts and disbursements. While it appears that ANC is expending funds for under-utilized office space, we have seen no evidence suggesting that any of the Commissioners have a personal or financial interest in maintaining the office. According to the Chairperson [Mary J. Cuthbert], ANC 8C public meetings were held at the office last year; however, because attendance has grown since last year, public meetings are now held at the Petey Green Center, which is located at 2907 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, SE.

The office is aware of the continuing problem that ANC 8C has in establishing a quorum of Commissioners at its meetings. Without a quorum, the ANC cannot take official action, including the approval of quarterly reports and the expenditure of funds for rent, administrative support, office supplies, office equipment, and telephone service. At the request of one of ANC 8C's Commissioners a meeting of all ANC 8C Commissioners was held at the Auditor's office last year in an attempt to get the ANC back on track by encouraging increased participation in ANC activities and meeting attendance on the part of each Commissioner.

While the complainant contends that it appears that ANC 8C is wasting public funds by maintaining an office which is not fully functional, my review found no evidence that funds are being misappropriated. The ANC properly approved the disbursement of the $900 monthly rent payment and has executed a lease which sets forth the terms and conditions of this obligation. Although it is the Auditor's opinion that this is not the most prudent or economical use of ANC funds or its office space under present circumstances, this office does not possess the authority to require that ANC 8C give up its office space.

Should you have any further questions regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me or Deputy Auditor Lawrence Perry at 202-727-3600.

Lawrence R. Perry, Deputy Auditor
For: Deborah K. Nichols
District of Columbia Auditor

William Ellis/8C01
Dion Jordan/8C02
Mary J. Cuthbert/8C03
R. Calvin Lockridge/8C04
Cardell Shelton/8C07
Dorothea Ferrell/8C01
Grady Edwards/8C02
Mary Cuthbert/8C03
R. Calvin Lockridge/8C04
Cardell Shelton/8C07

For more Congress Heights and River East news visit The Congress Heights Examiner website, http://www.examiner.com/x-13507-Congress-Heights-Community-Examiner
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Anonymous said...

I don't care what the DC Auditor has to say somehow someway some dollars are making their way into someone's pocket. This looks like a sweetheart deal if I ever saw one. It is a total waste of goverment funds.

I have gone to several ANC 8C meetings and they get nothing accomplished. I see no justification for these rent payments to have continued. I am sure if the DC Auditor dug deep enough they would have found some tie between the Chairperson and the owner of the property.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain this to me? So the auditor says this is a waste of tax payer funds but they can't do anything to make it stop?

What is the purpose of the auditor?

Deanwood Denizen said...

The Auditor's purpose is to investigate the matters. If there is criminal wrongdoing it is turned over to the appropriate authorities, likely the Office of the Attorney General, for prosecution. An interesting point to note are the vacant positions. ANC decisions are on a quorum-7 members and a vote or attendance of 4 gets a quorum. Residents bent on change need to determine in which SMD they live and run for those seats not to mention speaking up and attending the mtgs to let us commissioners know we are being watched and supported. An additional tool is the legislative process. For years there's been talk about reforming the ANC law. If Alexander moved this audit, she can be a conduit for the ANC law reform.

The Advoc8te said...

Thanks Deanwood for the information!

A little backstory. The two vacant seats are on Bolling Airforce Base and until recently the commander of Bolling issued a rule that serviceman and women on the base could not participate in the ANC. Luckily the new commander is indicating that he wants Bolling to be involved so hopefully we will see these seats be filled soon.

In the SMD 8C02 meeting the DC Auditor, Executive Director of ANCs and reps from CM Alexander's office attended an informational meeting for the community on ANC 8C finances. In that meeting it was made clear to the community that of the 5 filled ANC Commissioner seats a quorum was met when 3 Commissioners attended a meeting - even if one left the room, as was the case in the Jan 2009 meeting when Commissioner Jordan was elected as Chair as Commissioner Ellis refused to vote. BTW another vote was held and there was a tie. After speaking with the Executive Director of ANCs and reviewing ANC law it appears that that first election was valid - Commissioner Jordan should be named Chair with Commissioner Sheldon as Vice Chair. Unfortunetly that has not been enforced so for now Commissioner Cuthbert continues to call herself Chair and the position of Vice Chair remains vacant.

All in all a great big mess.

Good news is that you are totally on the money with involving CM Alexander for some reform and that is what a group of concerned citizens of ANC 8C are doing right now. If a crime has been committed we are going to demand that guilty parties be charged and that funds are recouped.

Anonymous said...

That's interesting about Bolling. Oddly, my long time friend's Dad was that recent base commander (he started there in 06, and I think moved on -- the new commander is very 'new' right?)

Anyway, I presume he barred soldiers from participating b/c they are still under the chain of command and theoretically could be ordered to act on behalf of the Federal govt. Sounds kinda out there, but consider that they order a soldier/ANC Commissioner to vote in support of closing a road, granting waivers on noise restrictions and pollution oft he river, using the city's utilities, etc. More importantly, they could vote in favor of using city resources to assist the base (like directing sewer upgrades to the areas feeding into their locale.

I've only entered the base from the highway entrance, but I assume the residents don't really have natural/easy access to, nor use the amenities of the area (they're self-sufficient, aren't they?).

Being able to move the ANC with such a tiny quorum stinks, but having people sitting on it who don't really participate in the community (or even understand it) sounds like a worrisome prospect. On the other hand, the presence of some earnest accomplished military members (those with a real understanding of authoritative power and who are not flummoxed by squabbling imitations of it), might shake that toady belief the an ANC Chair is the throne of some personal kingdom. (Being dramatic here, but you the my sentiment.)

Anyway, interesting tidbit.


William said...

They should have used the $24,300 public funds on other projects. I think that's a waste of money.

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