By U.S. REP. Chaka Fattah improperly used his mayoral exploratory committee to cover $36,767 in campaign expenses, the Board of Ethics said yesterday.

Fattah has agreed to reimburse the money to the exploratory committee. Eventually the money will be returned to the individual donors.

Shane Creamer, executive director of the board, said Fattah's exploratory committee was allowed to accept contributions above the city's contribution limits before he became an official candidate. But he couldn't spend that money to influence his campaign.

As the Daily News first reported in February, Fattah used his exploratory account to pay for his Web site, his mayoral-announcement festivities and videos. The board considered those to be campaign expenses.

Fattah also returned a $20,000 contribution that the exploratory committee received after he had declared his candidacy.

Creamer said the board would not fine Fattah because he had returned the money.

Zack Stalberg, chief executive of the watchdog group Committee of Seventy, praised the decision, saying, "It's pretty clear the Fattah campaign misbehaved, or they wouldn't be agreeing to this settlement."

Fattah last year formed the exploratory committee, which accepted several six-figure checks before he declared his candidacy.

The city contribution limits are set at $2,500 annually per individual and $10,000 annually per political-action committee. A "millionaire's exception" doubles them if a self-funded candidate is in the race, as is the case this year with millionaire Tom Knox.

When asked in February if he had violated the spirit of the campaign-finance law by using his exploratory funds to benefit his mayoral campaign, Fattah said no.

"I believe that we have followed the rules," he said. "I think that these complaints are being generated because I'm leading in the race."

Fattah did not comment yesterday, but a spokesman said they were glad the situation had been resolved.

Creamer said he had been working with the Fattah campaign since February to resolve the exploratory spending. He said he had "tremendous cooperation" from the campaign.

"This validates the whole system that Philadelphia has created," Creamer said of the settlement.

Specific costs outlined in Fattah's agreement with the board were:

_ $7,598 for his Web site;

_ $11,008.88 for his mayoral announcement event;

_ $14,645.46 for other announcement expenses, videos and photos;

_ $3,515 for office expenses.

The $20,000 that was returned had been donated to the exploratory committee after Fattah became a candidate. *