WASHINGTON - Bankers in the Washington area can expect more scrutiny of their community lending practices in the wake of a protest rally Tuesday at Columbia First Bank.

Local activists attacked Columbia First, the area's second-largest thrift, with $2.2 billion in assets, for failing to invest in its own community.

"This is just a start," said Leroy Hubbard, president of a local planning and housing association. "We're going to be looking at all the banks in D.C. and in other areas."

The rally's organizers released a report accusing the Arlington, Va.-based thrift of lending District of Columbia residents only 1 cent for every dollar in deposits it collects in the city. To drive the point home, they accepted 1-cent donations in front of Columbia First's downtown office.

CRA Rating Challenged

Thomas J. Schaefer, president and chief executive officer of Columbia First, said its "satisfactory" Community Reinvestment Act grade from the Office of Thrift Supervision is proof of its commitment to the District of Columbia.

But Manny Pastriech of the Service Employees International Union challenged the claim. "The community reinvestment report said participation in the program has been adequate," he said "We question that. They have made some efforts, but we're saying they need more."

Joining the union in organizing the protest were the Justice for Janitors Campaign - a national effort to improve the working conditions of janitors - and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn. They called on Columbia First to develop a plan to improve home mortgage services to underserved Washington-area neighborhoods.

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