D.C. dismisses complaint against official

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

District regulators have dismissed a complaint against an advisory neighborhood commissioner for voting in support of a series of resolutions designed to benefit a property whose tenants group she leads.

Although the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance found that Yasmin Romero-Castillo initially broke the city's conflict of interest laws, the agency said that she had resolved the violation quickly enough to avoid sanctions.

"Commissioner Romero-Castillo cured the conflict of interest occasioned by her prior vote[s] on matters involving the tenants' association as a result of her timely rehabilitative actions," the regulators wrote in an order.

Romero-Castillo is a Ward 1 advisory neighborhood commissioner and the president of the 3145 Mt. Pleasant St. Tenants' Association. Until a 2008 fire, the property housed the Deauville Apartments, and Romero-Castillo lived in the complex.

Although the District approved a $4 million loan to the association to purchase the property and rebuild, the group has encountered trouble finding additional funding.

In May, ANC1D, the panel on which Romero-Castillo serves, urged city officials to make the reconstruction cheaper by supporting tax breaks for the project.

City records show Romero-Castillo supported the resolutions during a May 15 meeting.

A week after the votes, though, the commission reconsidered its actions after a community member raised questions about Romero-Castillo's close ties to the property.

Romero-Castillo recused herself from those votes, and the commissioners approved the resolutions again.

Civic activist Terry Lynch filed a complaint, though, alleging that the new vote wasn't enough to absolve Romero-Castillo of wrongdoing.

"I think the revote perhaps does it correctly, but it doesn't address or clarify why they would have taken the first one," Lynch said in August.

After Lynch's complaint, first reported by The Washington Examiner earlier this year, Romero-Castillo described the investigation as "a witch hunt.

"We are clear," she said. "I'm clear."

The regulators said Romero-Castillo will not face any penalties for the episode, but they warned her to "carefully consider" future actions and how they might relate to the city's conflict of interest law.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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