ANCs Handle Thousands of Dollars of Taxpayer Money

James Wright | 11/19/2012, 11:56 p.m.

During the orientation, Wright-Smith learned that grants are supposed to go to organizations that are using them for the good of the community. She said that it was made clear in the orientation that grants should not be used to pay the rent of constituents or for small personal loans.

"We do not help people in that way and I have never gotten that type of request from a constituent," she said.

If a resident needs financial assistance, they would have to contact their D.C. Council member, Gottlieb said. The constituent service fund that each member has is supposed to aid residents in times of need, he said.

Getting Money

The process of getting money from an ANC varies depending on the commission's individual polices, but they do have standard practices.

Wright-Smith said that the first step in obtaining a grant from a commission is to contact a commissioner.

"The commissioner will give you a grant application or you can download it from the ANC's website," she said. "When the application is completed, it is presented to the commissioner who will present your application to the commission at what is known as a pre-meeting. At the pre-meeting, a decision is made on whether to present it [during] the public meeting."

Wright-Smith said that at the public meeting, a motion is made to approve or deny the request. If approved, a check will be issued, she said.

The process is the same at others with a few minor differences.

"If someone wants a grant, they can go to our website," said Villareal Johnson, an outgoing commissioner in Ward 7. "They can fill out the form on the website and they will be contacted and invited to the public session where the ANC approves or disapproves."

Johnson, 34, said that the commission does not pay the grantee directly but makes the check payable to the vendor. For example, if a grantee is seeking to plant a community garden, the commission will make the check or checks payable to companies or firms supplying materials and tools for the garden.

Wright-Smith said grants given by the commission must be verified on how they were spent.

"Whoever gets money from us must have their receipts and report of what they did with the money, which will be handed over to the auditor," she said.

The Office of the D.C. Auditor regularly monitors the spending activities of the commissions and investigates when there are issues on how the money is spent. The commissions' fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

Commissions have different signatory practices in terms of who can authorize money to be disbursed or spent on ANC activities. In Wright-Smith's commission, it's the treasurer who handles financial matters primarily while King's commission's financial affairs are handled by the chairman and the treasurer of the commission and must have a D.C. government insignia.

To get money from Johnson's commission, there must be signatures from a leader such as the chairman or secretary and a commissioner. Johnson said that he makes sure that the process of giving out grants goes smoothly.

"I do not want to go to jail over misusing ANC money," he said.

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