City Desk

Barry Took Kickbacks, Council Investigation Finds

UPDATED, 12:35 P.M.

Well, it sure as hell wasn't a whitewash.

Attorney Bob Bennett this morning presented the findings of a five- seven-month investigation into D.C. Council contracts and earmarks—a probe prompted by the shenanigans of Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry this summer. [Download a PDF of the report's executive summary; download the full report.]

The blockbuster finding is that Barry handed council checks to girlfriend Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, then ordered her to go to a bank, cash the checks, and give him part of the proceeds. Barry, in a deposition, protested that any money she handed over was to repay loans Barry had given.

But, Bennett noted today, the "evidence is overwhelming" that Barry illegally took city funds. He called for the council to refer the matter to the U.S. attorney and the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance.

The other part of the Bennett investigation concerned the longstanding council practice of awarding "earmarks"—noncompetitive grants to various nonprofits favored by councilmembers. Bennett and his team, following Washington City Paper's reporting on the matter, found massive irregularities with the process by which several nonprofits, created at Barry's behest, were funded and operated. Like City Paper, Bennett found that incorporation documents were forged, that large amounts of money were steered to political supporters, and that Barry remained in control of the groups.

In testimony before the council today, Bennett pointed to two Barry cronies who personally benefited from the earmarking arrangement—Brenda Richardson, his constituent service director, who made more than $100,000 through the groups, and Anthony Motley, the at-large council candidate, who made more than $50,000.

Aside from the critique of Barry's practices, investigators were just as critical of the earmarking process writ large. Prior to the presentations of the report's findings, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray announced a number of changes he planned to make to the earmarking process. But Bennett & Co. made clear that any changes to the system would be little more than cosmetic.

Bennett testified that there has been "little transparency, "no competition," and "little or no accountability" in earmarking. Earmarks, another investigator reported, provide "substantial opportunities for waste and abuse"; the official recommendation is that the council "seriously consider ending earmark grantmaking as currently practiced."

Bennett called the earmarks "like a narcotic drug" to politicians. Once they start using them, they can't get enough of them.

Barry's misbehavior didn't end then the contracts and earmarking was exposed. Bennett described a campaign by Barry to obstruct his investigation, in part by minimizing the seriousness of the probe and attacking its legitimacy, and in part by attempting to convince Watts-Brighthaupt not to share key evidence with investigators.

In the end, Bennett concluded, Barry "breached the high ethical standards expected on him" and "breached the public trust."

Bennett, before presenting his findings, explained that over the course of the inquiry, a team of dozens of lawyers spanning two top firms (he moved from Skadden Arps to Hogan & Hartson amid the probe) "collected and reviewed 575,000 pages of documents obtained from numerous sources" since the council authorized the investigation in July.

Barry for his part protested mightily Bennett's investigations and its findings, protesting inquiries into his sexual behavior and noting the lack of "written procedures" for awarding personal service contracts.

Bennett swatted the latter claim away readily: "I wouldn't expect the city council to have written rules—with all due respect, sir—that you should not give [contracts] to people you have a relationship with."

Barry's ultimate defense: "I don't apologize for getting as many resources to the ward as I can." Never mind that the investigation found that most of those resources found their way into the pockets of Barry's political allies rather than his greater constituency.

"We couldn't have been more fair to Mr. Barry," Bennett said before the dais. "We plain and simple found that he did some things wrong."

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  • Keith

    And in other news:

    Water is wet, the Pope is Catholic, and Bears shit in the woods.

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  • Manor

    Note Fenty now has Peaceaholics and Ron Moten taking federal snow funds to do shoveling. I hope someone can figure out the various improprieties therein.

  • Gary Teal

    As Keith says, we already knew this. Once again he has betrayed and embarrassed his constituents and made the voters of Ward 8, endlessly forgiving of their disgraced hero, look like suckers. This is all on him, not the honest people who voted for him. Ward 8 is in great need of capable leadership, and instead Barry gives them kickbacks and payoffs and drug busts.

    Lost in the spotlight on Barry is the fact that Bennett and his team were not targeting Barry, and did not reserve all their criticism for him. They found a culture of earmarks and self-dealing that stains every member of the Council. The media should report it that way, not just run the easy dog-bites-man headline about Barry.

  • J

    city paper vs. barry part 12....isnt there anyone else worth investigating? The man will be long gone and cp will still find dirt!

  • Hitz

    Im behind MAYOR Barry 100%.
    Why dont you all go investigate these crooked congressmen and senators.
    Barry is and will always be powerful in DC until the day he dies. Get used to it.
    And hwat does his sexual habits have to do with anything?
    Last I remember sex is legal. I hope he gets as much sex as possible.

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  • Contrarian

    I am sure the IRS and OTR will want to talk with him about for tax penalties if he didn't report the "addtional" money as income...

  • A New Day for DC

    Misuse of public funds is both unethical and illegal, I don't care who is doing it. Whether it's Barry or Mother Teresa it is WRONG. A just society cannot continue to hold up for what is wrong. It sends a horrible message to our young people.

  • downtown rez

    Is he still on probation for IRS reasons and will this send him to jail?
    It might not be a bad deal. I hear they have free healthcare there.

  • Anita

    A wise person once mentioned to me that the Devil can walk up to you, identify himself and his intentions...and you could still fall for the okie doke. Longtime DC residents, especially Barry supporters in Ward 8, are familiar with Councilman Barry's foibles to an intimate degree; yet, they elected this a political office. WCP, can you spell "Teflon"? M-A-R-I-O-N. Disgrace after disgrace heaps upon him, yet Marion Barry slips through the cracks like oil oozing out of asphalt on a rainy day.

    All the haters say, "Aha!", every time Mr. Barry is caught with his pants down...and all the supporters say, "Awww", every time he is "attacked." I'm not a hater or a supporter. I'm one of the Black, DC refugees shaking my head, glad that no elected official in DC represents me...and in despair of ever being able to return to a stable, healthy, affordable DC.

    Marion Barry is just a symptom of what's wrong with the system. Fix the system. Don't let the court jester distract from such an important mission.

  • Rick Mangus

    This clown has enbarrass this city over and over again, and keeps getting elected by uneducated dumb asses in this city to office. I'm sure there are still morons who think that, "THE MAN" set-up this son of a bitch in 1990 by putting that crack pipe in his mouth at the Vista Hotel.

    I have seen some of the comments on this blog from people who have the intelligence of a 15 watt light bulb. This is Washington, D.C., our Nations Capitol, not 'Catfish Row' from 'Amos and Andy' have some PRIDE people, if you can!

    Lock the SON OF A BITCH up and let his stupid crooked ass rot in prison!

  • Rick Mangus


  • Samantha

    Time to investigate the BIG FISH EVANS and CATANIA . Follow the money laundered through Patton Boggs and Akin Gump. Developers own them along with FENTY and GRAHAM . By the way , Chairman Gray has a major conflict of interesti in his dealings with Bennett. If Barry goes down , the BIG MONEY MAFIA should be given over to a Special Prosecutor and the Control Board should be Reactivated ! How much did the Whore get? Did Bennett funnell the payment for a successful set up off shore ?

  • Rick Mangus

    I agree 'Samantha' look into them ALL!

  • Anonymous

    Agreed, Samantha-

    Barry is nothing but a "tool" and an easy mark for the moneyed interests when they need to distract the citizenry from the real outright thievery and mismanagement going on throughout the District Building.

    Would Barry be walking around free if he weren't of any use to these folks... think about it.

  • Downtown rez

    Great. Lock his ass up and deprive the "moneyed interests", as well as the rest of us, of a complete tool.

  • Truth Hurts

    LL, all these bills with Barry's earmarks, etc, went through "one city" Gray. And Barry's a contributor and main supporter of Gray. You still feeling warm and fuzzy toward Gray? Want him to run this city?

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  • Woodley Parker

    Get this creep off of the D.C. Council and out of the District government for once and for all.

  • sedcdude

    @ keith

    and then wipe their asses with fucking white rabbits!! And in "other" DC news!!

    This cyclical "Barry thang" WCP has is rather ,,,,, gay!

  • sedcdude


    we all know that won't happen! Too much like right!

    "Either the United States will destroy ignorance, or ignorance will destroy the United States"– W.E.B. DuBois

  • Sir Walter Raleigh

    So he not only got BJ's from the lady, he also required that she pay him for the honor!

    I guess that's what passes for a gentleman these days.

  • Dave

    John Lennon was right. Sir Walter Raleigh was such a stupid git.

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