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Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander wants answers after the collapse of D.C. Trust, the District’s frequently plundered clearinghouse for nonprofit grants.
“Let the chips fall where they may,” Alexander wrote yesterday in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
Alexander might not like where all those chips end up. Emails recently obtained by LL through the Freedom of Information Act show that Alexander used Council letterhead to fundraise for a D.C. Trust grant recipient and set up a meeting between the nonprofit and the D.C. Trust—all while failing to disclose her one-time membership on the nonprofit’s board.
Until she took over the D.C. Council’s human services committee in January 2015, Alexander held an unpaid position on the board of the Take Charge Juvenile Diversion Program. Earlier this month, the Post reported on Alexander’s unpaid board spot and the shaky ethics of her decision not to disclose the position in city forms.
Now, the newly revealed emails show that Alexander used her Council position to help Take Charge and its executive director, former NBA player Jerrod Mustaf, both before and after taking over the committee that oversaw the D.C. Trust.
In June 2014, Alexander wrote a letter of support on Council letterhead to the Aetna Foundation, asking the group to fund a basketball camp organized by Take Charge.
“I urge you to fund this organization that will… positively affect the lives of youth and their families,” Alexander wrote.
Alexander’s letter failed to note that at the time she was on the nonprofit’s board. Alexander’s office declined to offer an explanation for why Alexander used Council letterhead to benefit the organization.
A few months later, in Oct. 2014, Alexander used her Council email account to pull Mustaf and Take Charge into an email chain with the D.C. Housing Authority about a privately funded renovation of a basketball court at a public housing complex in Ward 7. Again, Alexander didn’t mention her position on the nonprofit’s board.
This time, though, she also included a plug for another Mustaf effort—the Street Basketball Association, which Mustaf runs.
When Mustaf suggested that the court renovation could include a logo for one of his association’s teams, the D.C. Legends, Alexander enthusiastically agreed.
“It would also be great if the D.C. Legends logo is included,” she wrote in an email that went to Housing Authority staffers.
Alexander resigned her Take Charge board position, on advice from the Council’s attorneys, after taking over the human services committee, according to Alexander spokeswoman Tiffany Browne. Still, she kept advocating on the group’s behalf. In Nov. 2015, Alexander emailed D.C. Trust executive director Ed Davies—whose organization she then oversaw through her committee—and set up a meeting with Mustaf.
A former NBA player for the Phoenix Suns, Mustaf left the league after being linked to (but never charged in) the murder of his pregnant girlfriend. On his personal website, Mustaf describes media coverage of the murder as “character assassination.”
Mustaf didn’t respond to LL’s request for comment. Both the Post and the campaign of Vince Gray, Alexander’s leading rival in Ward 7’s June primary, have described the relationship between Mustaf and Alexander as “close.” Earlier this month, Gray called for the District’s Board of Ethics and Government Accountability to investigate why Alexander never disclosed her board position on city disclosure forms.