Jerk in the Box What does baseball ticket squabble say about Adrian Fenty?

The Suite Hereafter...belongs to Fenty.
Darrow Montgomery

On Tuesday morning, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty told LL the following: “To be perfectly candid, I’m really focused on the budget, on making sure the city works.”

Perhaps that’s a good thing for the city, for the taxpayers.

Trouble is, LL wasn’t asking the mayor about the budget or about a working city.

LL was asking about baseball tickets, and, more specifically, Fenty’s policy of denying free ones to members of the D.C. Council. That petty act, of hoarding the freebies for his own people and keeping them from the panel on which he formerly served, is becoming as reliable a rite of spring as breaking out the grill and scanning the box scores.

The background: Last year, the Nats handed the tickets owed to the city government under the stadium lease over to the mayor’s office, which in turn distributed them only to certain favored members. Council Chair Vincent C. Gray had his colleagues send the tickets back until they were distributed equitably. The internecine conflict was resolved only when Fenty consigliere Peter Nickles intervened, and the council was given exclusive use of one of two skyboxes provided by the Nats.

Once again, this year, the tickets were delivered to the mayor’s office, but this time no tickets at all were passed on. As of game time, Fenty had kept the tickets for the original suite, the council suite, and a “smattering” of seats behind first base, according to Dawn Slonneger, chief of staff to Gray. (The council, however, does have plenty of parking passes—those were delivered earlier this month by Deputy Mayor Neil O. Albert.)

Actually, there were exceptions to the no-council rule: WTOP’s Mark Plotkin, on the scene, spied the father of Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser in the council box, who was there with City Administrator Dan Tangherlini and his kids.

And Jim Graham, a generally reliable supporter of the mayor, got his tickets from Albert, but not for himself. He had donated his council allotment to a charity auction last fall and had to come through for the people who bought them. After LL called Monday morning inquiring about the matter, Graham made a point to call back and emphasize that the charitable implications were the only reason he wanted the tickets. “I now realize this might be a larger issue than I thought,” he said.

Fenty’s willingness to reopen such petty affairs comes without explanation. His communications apparatus went on complete lockdown on the issue. Neither chief spokesperson Mafara Hobson nor chief of staff Carrie S. Kohns responded to inquiries on the matter. Fenty himself, buttonholed Tuesday morning, would say very little beyond several versions of he didn’t “know all the details” and that the situation “will be resolved.”

After six minutes of questioning, he finally found his home base with the previously cited budget refrain. He added, “I’m not as focused on tickets as you all are.”

At least one councilmember made it to the ballgame without the mayor’s help. LL reached at-larger Kwame R. Brown a few minutes before game time. He was attending the game with his son and was cagey about how he had procured tickets. But his suite seats, he says, were to be given away to kids he’d bused down to North Carolina earlier this year for a college fair.

Says Brown, “I think it’s time for the mayor to grow up.”

“Grow down” would perhaps be a better prescription. That’s because in recent months the mayor has taken on the persona of a megalomaniac in charge of a city of 585,000 people.

Where Fenty the councilmember was an open and accessible public official and Fenty the candidate promised new levels of governmental transparency, the mayoral version, with some $2 million in his re-election coffers, is a guy who simply can’t be doubted, who can’t even be questioned.

Take his awkward meeting with WTOP’s Mark Segraves on the National Airport curb earlier this month—a rendezvous prompted by Fenty’s failure to be fully forthcoming on his peregrinations. Hizzoner told Segraves he was headed to New York on official business but refused to explain what the business was.

What was particularly irritating, LL felt, was that his Gotham activities were no secret: He’d previously been advertised as appearing on an education panel with fellow mayors Michael Bloomberg of New York, Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, and Kevin Johnson of Sacramento.

What was the point in keeping that private? Or what was the point of nominating a bevy of folks to various boards and commissions with flimsy qualifications beyond friendship with Hizzoner? Or what was the point in keeping a key contracting official from testifying on the giveaway of a fire truck and ambulance to a Dominican Republic town?

Then again, those things actually kind of matter to his governance of the city. But the baseball tickets? Most councilmembers, LL senses, wish the issue would just go away.

Says Ward 3’s Mary M. Cheh, “Governing is a practical affair, and you have to learn to get along with people....It’s mystifying. It’s calculated to exacerbate tensions for no good reason.”

City Looks at Democratic Books

Last August, local Democratic honchos had a fab time in Denver celebrating the Democratic National Convention. They stayed in a fine downtown hotel, enjoyed lavish breakfasts, and hosted a group of young Washingtonians who helped lobby for D.C. voting rights.

Now some folks are asking who paid those bills.

The city’s Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) launched an official investigation of the D.C. Democratic State Committee this week, including allegations that a “secret account” existed under the DCDSC name to pay for convention expenses.

Corporate and individual donations are said to have paid for travel expenses for the youths and certain DCDSC members, not to mention breakfasts and other events at the confab, but there has been no public disclosure of those donations to date.

The most serious questions surround a $12,000 check written on a DCDSC account in August to cover convention expenses. The check was paid to an entity called “Denver Convention 2008,” but the endorsement stamp on the back of the check indicates the check was deposited into an Industrial Bank account in the name of “DC DEMOCRATIC STATE COMMITTEE.”

In other words: Here’s a check for a tidy sum paid by the DCDSC to the DCDSC. The originating account is the group’s standard operating account. The destination account is an account that nobody knows a thing about—except for committee chair Anita Bonds and member Marilyn Tyler Brown.

The DCDSC’s treasurer, Dan Wedderburn, has no control over the account into which the funds were deposited.

Back in December, Deborah Royster, national Democratic committeewoman and chair of the Ward 4 Democrats, sent a letter to OCF asking for a full investigation of the convention finances. After OCF failed to respond, Ward 8 member Phil Pannell followed up last week.

In an e-mail sent last Tuesday to committee members, Pannell said questions need to be answered: “Was any money left? If so, what happened to it? A few members have asked [Bonds] about the national convention finances and the response has ranged from delay, dismissal, insults and threats.…[T]he members of the DCDSC have every right to expect total financial accountability and transparency.”

Bonds says that “there are no secret accounts.” The purpose of the Denver Convention 2008 fund, she says, was to accept corporate and political action committee donations that the DCDSC itself was unable to accept. As for the mysterious endorsement, she says, “Apparently the bank created a stamp. They did that for informational purposes, which I guess is probably correct.”

Bonds says that she and Brown consulted with OCF before creating the account and that they have been cooperating with the office since questions have been raised.

Full disclosure, Bonds says, will come when the Denver Convention 2008 group files its federal tax form later this year. She promises to LL that a complete accounting of donations and expenditures will be provided.

“You can get a copy of that,” she says.

So, too, can the Office of Campaign Finance.

Capitol Hill Smackdowns Remembered

With last week’s surprise vote to recognize same-sex marriages from other states, District politicos are pondering a clash with Congress. And, when at some point in the near future, the council passes a law allowing said marriages to be performed here, they’ll really be spoiling for a fight.

To overturn District law, both houses of Congress would have to pass a joint resolution and the president would have to sign it. In a conversation with LL about that possibility, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city’s congressional delegate, claimed that hasn’t happened before—a point repeated recently by LL, At-Large Councilmember David A. Catania, and Post columnist Marc Fisher.

Oh, yeah?

Congress first used the legislative “nuclear option” in 1979, after the council had voted to restrict future diplomatic chanceries in the Embassy Row area and north of Scott Circle. Before Mayor Marion Barry could sign the bill, the State Department threw a shitfit—one adviser told the Washington Post it was akin to “the Detroit City Council doing everything to hurt Chrysler”; Barry signed the bill anyway. After a fair amount of home-rule hand-wringing, Congress voted by acclamation to throw out the law.

In the most recent case, in 1991, the council had voted to give a planned downtown development an exemption to the standard height requirements. Developers of Market Square North, including parking-lot magnate Kingdon Gould III, wanted their building to rise 130 feet, 20 feet higher than regs permit. Again, both houses chose to veto the District act by voice vote—this time, without much hand-wringing.

In both cases, one could argue that there existed some legitimate federal concern compelling Congress to overturn the District’s legislation.

But that was not the case in 1981, during the initial ascendancy of the Christian right. The District, after poring over its criminal code, had passed an act overhauling the law concerning sexual crimes. Among other provisions, it legalized fornication, adultery, bestiality, and consensual sodomy—the last of which, in other words, legalized homosexuality. Though dozens of other states had similarly liberalized their sex laws, the Rev. Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority saw a political opportunity. They lobbied Illinois Rep. Phil Crane, conservative leader of the era, to introduce a disapproval resolution (which, in those days, needed to be passed by only one chamber).

What followed was a pattern of legislative maneuvering that would look awfully familiar to anyone who witnessed the Senate vote last month to gut the District’s gun laws: Conservative and moderate Democrats, fearful of an election-year pro-bestiality smear, abandoned the District in droves, helping kill the council bill 281–119 in the only congressional roll call ever taken on District law in the home rule era. The Moral Majority deemed the vote the group’s biggest Hill victory to date.

So what’s going to keep the same thing from happening 28 years later—especially when the same playbook was used by conservatives six weeks ago?

Probably not the makeup of Congress. The 97th House of Representatives was almost as heavily Democratic as the 111th, though the Republicans had a Senate majority at the time. What Norton is counting on is a disorganized response among social conservative activists. In other words, gay marriage opponents don’t have an NRA: “The gun amendment is controlled by a big lobby that specializes in out-and-out intimidation of members and big donations,” she says. “There’s no such organized lobby against gays or gay marriages.”

In any case, Norton says, she can handle it: “I anticipate being able to be able to protect [the gay-marriage laws]….In order to do something someone is going to have to introduce a bill or otherwise get something through the Congress. Well, you gotta pass by me on that.”

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Our Readers Say

The mayor is an.....@ssh0le. And the Democratic State Committee needs to go to jail.
Is the Mayor drinking too much DC water?
Adrian Malik Fenty has changed and I hope his ass fall like the former Hip Hop mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of Detroit. As a registered D.C. voter since 1976, I will never cast a vote for Adrian Fenty or mean spirited David Catania. I hope both go straight to "HELL". I never voted for Muriel Bowser as the Ward 4 Councilmember, because she's a puppet for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. Fenty pimped the black voters in D.C. to get their votes and he has turned his back on them. Black D.C. residents/voters should turn out in large numbers to vote Fenty ass out of office. If you ask me, it's time for a white mayor or even a Republican mayor of D.C. Adrian M. Fenty is Godless!

Blue Dog Democrat
I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of a over paid disfunctional City Council, a one turm Mayor who fails to act in instance where a CFO and a Youth Services Director should have been fired but he rather fire low level Social Workers, Ms Phillis, I mean Phil Graham and Ms Divida, I mean David Cattana along with the other misguided body trying to demand that all DC Citizens either go along with their Life Style or you are homophobic despite a life style thats in total contradiction to nature.I hope the next election cycle we send a strong message that we also pay taxes and have a voice and will not continue to have all of this garbage force on us without a thought of the opinion and input of the citizens of this City.
the mixed race mayor has forgotten which color he his.
he is doing the same B.S. that others are doing.
he is starting to remind me of sharon pratt kelly
he is not a real leader and it is starting to show. he acts like a mommas boy when it comes to certian issues.

There's no comparison with respect to Fenty and Sharon Pratt Kelly. Mayor Kelly's efforts to improve the city were stymied by an entrenched bureaucracy that was only accountable to the previous Mayor. Fenty on the other hand was put in place by the development community which has its own agenda in shaping the policies and demographics of the city. He is their tool and serves no other useful purpose for the citizens of the District.

Our only hope is to limit his arrogance and incompetence to one term. He is truly the District's "George Bush".
Mayor Monitor: How good is Mayor Adrian Fenty?
Adrian has lost a lot of support from the voters and especially black voters. He has lost my support as well after his closing the D.C. Department of Mental Health and his wanting to add an additional tax onto our monthly Pepco bills. This guy is a real jerk!
Adrian...what's going on? Are you experiencing post-pardum depression or was there a urine-match in the District Building bathrooms? Two see the light-skinned brother not get along...only gives the milk-chocolate ones hope...that our reign will return. I know there's a saying the person with all of toys when the game...but honestly is the game worth it?
Ward4DC: You are so right and so on target but maybe .....he never changed maybe he was just fooling us pretending to be what he never was nor will ever be.. a man for the people and by the people

Agree also about Catania and Bowser......
Mike -- congrats. I really didn't think you were up to the job during your first few months...but you're getting better and better with each day that passes. This piece took some balls, has some solid political analysis, and is spot on. Keep 'em coming just like this.
This is a big mess, and a mess is made of sh!?
Adrian Fenty is too stupid to see the train coming, and will get hit when the time is right. He is a puppet and these little acts of independency will get him in trouble. He always seems to have some bigger agenda, with friends ie the Lottery mess, the development mess, the firetruck mess. This city needs a real man to run it not a fool pretending to be a man. Get out of the way so DC can survive Fenty is killing it.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is a very vindictive man and his days are numbered as the mayor of the District of Columbia. He has upset Jewish D.C. voters by traveling to the Middle East and attending a tennis tournament a Israeli player was denied entry to play. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty have pimped the black D.C. voters and he have turned his back on them and is in bed with white and Middle Eastern wealthy Developers. Who's left in D.C., the mayor haven't angered?

Fenty's plan to close and privatize the D.C. Department of Mental Health was a bad move and it will be more costly to D.C. taxpayers in the long run. The mayor's summer job program of 2008 was a disaster and private contractors billed the city for work not provided. Mayor Fenty need to terminate Director Steve Baron of the D.C. Department of Mental Health and the CFO Juanita Price. City Administrator Dan Tangherlini is a flunky for the mayor and he should be terminated also, because the District of Columbia don't need a City Administrator. This is why, we the voters elected a mayor and the mayor appoints agencies Directors to led each D.C. Agency.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty fired his former campaign manager Alec Evans after he won the election against former D.C. Council Chairwoman Linda W. Cropp. Alec Evans worked very hard campaigning for Adrian M. Fenty and Fenty fired this hard working young man. The Fenty administration has been plagued with nepotism and corruption and it will soon come to light.

In closing, I have been told in private circles, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is an atheist. If this is true, I now understand his ungodly behavior. Fenty will be a one term mayor or he will end up like the former Hip Hop Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Good riddance!
Wow. The city is WAKING UP. As far as Fenty is concerned, many of you have provided the points that I would have. What agency, constituancy, etc. has he NOT offended directly or indirectly. To see Black, White, Jew, Christian, even his own Frat Brothers, speak against him is a telling sign. I hope it translates into votes in 2012.

As for him being an atheist, I don't know. He has been to my church several times...usually during the campaign season on a Sunday no less. Come to think of it, he never stays for the sermon. Even an atheist has standards, so I guess he isn't a good atheist either. LOL!

One more thing, with Fenty alone isn't the bad guy here. Gray looks just the fool as well. Considering of ALL THE THINGS GOING WRONG in DC, he picks this time to cry and whine about not getting PRIVILEGED treatment in terms of Baseball tickets. Isn't there more important things to deal with than entangle himself with Fenty over tickets that the CITIZENS bought and are still paying for on account of the stadium in the first place. If he really wanted to see a game, let him buy tickets like everyone else and stop seeking the voter's sympathy. It makes DC Government look like fools.

Gray is a punk too. When we needed him to grow a backbone, he didn't. What about the ORIGINAL stadium deal, what about the closing of schools, etc., etc., etc. Now all of a sudden he wants to show his indignation...what a sorry excuse for a Chairperson.
Think about it Q, what church does Adrian Fenty is a member? Most black politicians belong to some church, but I guess Adrian M. Fenty doesn't see himself as black. I have never heard him acknowledge publicly, he's a black man. He and his father both are claiming Moroccan heritage. I guess, some don't want to be associated with being of the black race. Adrian used blacks to get their votes and he has turned his back on them.

Blacks are afraid to publicly speak out against this Dictator Adrian Fenty. Fenty can go straignt to "HELL". I will never vote for this jerk again! Vincent Gray have shown poor leadership too. His ass need to go along with mean spirited hateful D.C. At-Large Councilmember David Catania.

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