Government and People
|A letter to Judge Henry F. Greene of the Superior Court
of the District of Columbia
Dear Judge Greene:
I am writing to you about Mary M. Treadwell. On October 22, 1997, Ms. Treadwell pled guilty in your court to one count of theft in the first degree for stealing $10,400 from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1B, of which she was chairman. She will be sentenced by you on December 16, 1997.1 My interest in this case is that I became a member of ANC 1B in January of this year, when I was sworn in as the single-member representative for ANC 1B08, and I was one of the commissioners who asked the District of Columbia Auditor to do an audit of the ANC.
I would ask you to give Ms. Treadwell a sentence that reflects the seriousness of her crime and that shows both the court's understanding of the impact of this theft on the community and the gravity with which the court regards the breach of public trust by an elected official.
I'm sure that you are aware that the amount of money which Ms. Treadwell admitted to stealing from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1B is only a small part of the money that was "misdirected" (as the March 24, 1997, report by the District of Columbia Auditor called it) from the funds that were allocated to the Commission. Many tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars were not spent for legitimate public purposes, and are still unaccounted for today. This substantial amount of money was intended to benefit the residents represented by ANC 1B, and the community was damaged by the misdirection of these funds.
I am sure that you also know that the previous embezzlement for which Ms. Treadwell was convicted was from the Clifton Terrace Apartments, which are located in the same poor neighborhood that is represented by ANC 1B.
I do not know whether you are also aware of the damage that Ms. Treadwell inflicted on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission itself, and on the damage that this crime continues to do to the ANC. In order to conceal the theft of funds, Ms. Treadwell with the consent and cooperation of the majority of ANC 1B Commissioners shut the other members of the Commission out of the consideration of financial matters and refused to provide bills and other documentation to substantiate expenses. In addition, she refused to distribute the ANC's mail, which came to a post office box, to other members of the Commission; and she locked all other Commission members out of the ANC's office and refused them access to the ANC's files.
To this date, Ms. Treadwell is supported by the majority of the members of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1B. The majority of the commissioners are upset and angry, not at what the DC Auditor's report revealed, but that an audit was done. They are furious, not that Ms. Treadwell stole public money, but that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was able to prove the theft. They act as though they believe that personal access to taxpayer money is one of the routine and expected perquisites of holding public office in the District of Columbia Government, and is not particularly blameworthy; while they have said that the damage that has been done to Ms. Treadwell's "good name" by those who exposed, investigated, and prosecuted her theft is inexcusable.
This dispute has severely split the Commission, and has made it almost completely nonfunctional for the past year. The ANC's current officers, who support Ms. Treadwell, still do not distribute the mail to the members of the Commission, still do not provide the Commissioners with copies of the bills received and checks written, and still have complied with only a few of the less important of the twenty-nine financial recommendations made by the DC Auditor to make the ANC fiscally accountable and responsible.
The Court can do a real service to the community and to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission by demonstrating that it, at least, does take public corruption in the government of the District of Columbia seriously. Last month, one judge, while finding a former member of the DC Council guilty of election fraud for submitting forged nominating petitions that she signed with a false affidavit, actually scolded the Assistant U.S. Attorney for prosecuting such a "minor" case. If even the courts do not take governmental corruption seriously, what hope can there be for reforming the DC government, and for establishing accountability and an expectation of honesty among public officials?
1. Sentencing has been postponed to January 30, 1998.
On January 30, 1998, Judge Green sentenced Mary Treadwell to serve only four months in jail.
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