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Columbia Heights Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) chairman Mary Treadwell may have a ready-made defense if the U.S. Attorney’s office decides to prosecute her on allegations that she diverted and misused city funds from her ANC’s treasury. Treadwell, the second wife of Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry Jr., can take a page out of Hizzoner’s book by claiming that she merely tried to assist people who needed a second chance and ended up having her hand bitten by them.
During her 6-year tenure on the ANCthe last five as chairmanTreadwell has hired two employees with prior criminal records. The first, Keith A. Campbell, compiled an impressive résumé of arrests for bad checks, theft, fraud, and criminal threats while in the employ of the ANC during 1992-93. The second, Antoinette “Tony” Bowler, was completing a 3-year federal prison sentence for defrauding the federal government of $14,500 when she was hired by Treadwell in 1993 to replace Campbell as the ANC’s office manager.
Last month, D.C. Auditor Tony Cooper questioned numerous reimbursements, salary advances, and petty-cash payments to Bowler. Cooper’s audit found that many of the canceled checks written to Bowler were missing from the ANC’s files, and numerous payments to her had not been authorized by the ANC’s commissioners. The ANC also failed to withhold federal and D.C. income taxes from Bowler’s salary, a violation of local and federal laws.
Bowler appears to have been paid over $3,000 per month for her work at the ANC, even though many of the commissioners confess they don’t know what she did to earn it. The ANC’s records show that during a 4-month period in early 1995 Bowler received salary and compensation totaling nearly $15,000.
In March 1995, the ANC, under the direction of Treadwell but without the approval of a majority of the 12-member commission, wrote two checks to D.C. attorney Larry Williams totaling $10,900. Over the next five months Williams wrote four checks to Treadwell totaling $10,400. The audit could not trace the money past the checks to Treadwell but turned up a fifth check for $500, which was written to a community group. Williams told the Washington Post last month that he had been asked by Treadwell to hold the funds for her and thought she was being paid for ANC contract work.
FBI agents are currently looking at the evidence uncovered by the audit, according to Cooper and ANC commissioners.
FBI czar Louis Freeh would be well advised to send his very best sleuths into the ANC office, because Treadwell has some experience diverting public money into her own pocketbook. In 1983, Treadwell was found guilty of forcing tenants of the Clifton Terrace housing complex to cash their federal rent subsidy checks and turn the money over to her.
After she got out of prison, her former husband had a job waiting for her at the D.C. Parole Boarda tidy little sinecure that many deemed a reward for Treadwell’s silence about the mayor’s management role in the failed PRIDE Inc. jobs program during the 1970s. (When Barry returned to the mayor’s office three years ago, Treadwell joined him at 1 Judiciary Square in the Office of Policy, a post that pays over $58,000 annually.)
Now some of her colleagues on the ANC joke that Treadwell used her parole board position to recruit her future staffers for the ANC.
Campbell’s criminal activities came to light in 1992 after his Columbia Heights landlady noticed numerous deliveries of office machinery and equipment that were addressed to the ANC, or to one of the city’s now-defunct neighborhood planning councils. The landlady, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation by Campbell, said a D.C. police detective subsequently informed her that her tenant was ordering the equipment in the name of city agencies and reselling it through a warehouse in suburban Maryland.
The landlady said that when she questioned Campbell in the fall of 1992 about the deliveries to his residence, her normally affable tenant suddenly turned abusive. She said Campbell threatened to kill her and her husband and burn down their house.
She immediately notified the police, who wrongly advised her to change the locks so that Campbell could not get back into his apartment. D.C. Superior Court records show that Campbell was indicted Nov. 18, 1992, for threatening harm to his landlady, but the indictment was dismissed the same day.
Campbell was arrested four times and charged with 31 offenses during the period from June 1991 to April 1994, according to court records. True to the D.C. tradition of compassion for habitual criminals, prosecutors did not pursue 21 of the charges against Campbell, despite his prior record. The remaining 10 were bargained away for two guilty pleas to lesser offenses.
Despite the arrests, Campbell managed to hold onto his ANC job, such as it was.
Once Campbell completed his waltz through the D.C. courts, he came back and threw the book at his landlady. In a D.C. Superior Court suit, Campbell asked for $1 million in damages from the landlady for violating a provision of the city’s rental housing laws that prohibits locking out a tenant, even one who threatens murder and arson.
Upon the advice of her insurance company, the landlady settled out of court for $7,000 to get Campbell to go away.
“It was a living nightmare,” the former landlady recalled this week. “He was just a real bad character, and he made our lives absolutely miserable.”
Treadwell is not talking about ANC affairs these days and has hired high-powered white-collar criminal defense attorney John Nields Jr. to fend off prosecutors and critics. After LL quoted ANC 1B Commissioner Tom Coumaris on Treadwell’s handling of ANC funds (2/28), Coumaris, an attorney with the Internal Revenue Service, received a stern warning from Nields.
“Since you are an attorney, I am sure I do not need to tell you how serious it would be if you incorrectly stated or implied to a reporter for the City Paper that Mary or the other officers of the ANC handled ANC funds improperly,” Nields warned Coumaris in a March 19 letter.
Treadwell learned more than a few tricks from her former husband during their 5-year marriage.
BARRY’S DIMINISHED STATE
The mayor’s annual state of the District address is normally a lofty affair attracting a well-adorned crowd who turn out to savor Hizzoner’s rhetorical musings on economic development, government transformation, and a renewed spirit of public service. But this year’s event had the lowly feel of a boisterous ANC meeting putting the best face on its short list of accomplishments.
The audience appeared packed even more than usual with D.C. government workers, bused-in senior citizens, and participants in the mayor’s various youth programs. Maybe the crowd of recruited Barry loyalists left no room for absent local luminaries such as Chief Financial Officer Anthony Williams, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Larry Soulsby, some members of the D.C. Council, and the entire financial control board.
Instead of advancing a vision for the future, Barry sounded like a military clerk taking inventory of potholes and garbage trucks when he delivered this year’s address to a nearly full Lincoln Theatre April 9. Still, Barry had to work harder than usual to get the crowd to respond to his numerous canned punch lines. But he didn’t have to work too hard to draw jeers and catcalls from the numerous detractors who infiltrated the event.
Hizzoner took 70 minutes to run through his meager list of accomplishments and padded the list substantially with successes that rightfully should have been credited to others.
Like the $100 million in federal aid for bridge and road repair that D.C. congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton secured for the city. Barry took full credit for the infrastructure coup. Or the police pay raises pushed through by the council when Barry was balking. Or the new MCI Center that now towers over Chinatown.
Sports mogul Abe Pollin may have put up most of the money to build the arena, but Barry suggested that he did the heavy lifting: “I personally cut through government red tape,” he bragged. LL concedes that Pollin surely needed some help getting through the bureaucracy that Barry has built over his 14-plus years as mayor.
The mayor even shamelessly portrayed himself as the unflinching defender of the embattled University of the District of Columbia, although his latest budget proposal cuts more money from UDC.
The speech did offer a few flashes of the old, unbowed Barry. He attacked the appointed school boardan easy targetfor deciding key educational policy questions behind closed doors. And he accused Williams of politicizing the CFO’s office and called on him to stand for election. Williams jokingly shrugged off the suggestion, as has nearly everyone else.
Although Hizzoner did a good job of mouthing the words, his speech lacked the customary Barry passion. Even he didn’t seem to believe many of the claims he was spouting. The lateness of this year’s addresswhich is usually held in Marchsuggests that even Barry might have preferred to forgo the year’s premier opportunity for self-promotion.
At-large Councilmember Linda Cropp will face little resistance in her bid to succeed late council Chairman Dave Clarke in the July 22 special election. But the long knives are already out in the battle to claim Cropp’s at-large seat once her ascension to the chair becomes official.
The home rule charter allows the usually irrelevant and always incompetent D.C. Democratic State Committee to pick Cropp’s successor, who will then serve until a special at-large election is held sometime in November. That person also gains the advantages of incumbency in the special election.
State committee member Sabrina Sojourner is already lining up votes among the 70 panel members in hopes of becoming the committee’s pick to succeed Cropp. But several other state committee members, including former council Chairman Arrington Dixon and former National Capital Planning Commission member Ed Grandis, could also jump into the fray.
The state committee is the ruling arm of the city’s dominant Democratic party.
To boost her candidacy, Sojourner should consider distributing videotapes of the Channel 32 public TV program In This Life, which recently aired a kissy profile of her. The show depicted Sojourner walking the Capitol’s corridors and called her “the United States Representative for the District of Columbia.” That’s a nice little promotion, considering that Sojourner actually holds a meaningless ceremonial postwith no salary, office, or staffas the city’s “shadow” statehood lobbyist in the House. No mention was made of the city’s real House delegate, Norton.
If Sojourner’s on-air job title rang hollow, however, she can take solace in being dubbed “the highest elected black lesbian official in the United States.”
Outsiders often get confused by the titles easily thrown about by Sojourner and Paul Strauss, D.C.’s “shadow” statehood lobbyist to the U.S. Senate. During the Chinese New Year celebration here in February, the Taiwanese ambassador gave a flowery introduction to “U.S. Sen. Paul Strauss” before Barry and a few councilmembers at the event.CP
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