City Desk

Bennett Report Moral: Don’t Date Marion Barry

In the coming weeks, D.C. Councilmembers, federal prosecutors, and everyday citizens will be digesting the awesome report on Ward 8 Councilmember Marion S. Barry Jr. issued today by Special Counsel Robert S. Bennett of Hogan & Hartson LLP. The report encapsulates a whole bunch of unethical and perhaps illegal behavior by Barry, especially in relation to his former girlfriend, Donna Watts-Brighthaupt.

A key finding in the report's executive summary says that Barry would help Watts-Brighthaupt with expenses and even buy her "gifts, including jewelry and a coat." Then, he'd "personally" deliver a city check to her and garner some of the proceeds. Said city check came from a contract that Barry had awarded to Watts-Brighthaupt.

Prosecutable offense? Let the authorities decide. My guess is that they'll leave this alone, given the results of the last attempt to prosecute the councilmember (tax evasion).

Yet it's clear that this conduct is grounds for a romantic indictment. Think about what's going on here: Boyfriend regales girlfriend with gifts and all kinds of generosity, assisting with the payment of utility bills and the like. In the process, boyfriend likely reaps all kinds of fringe benefits from the goodwill generated by such generosity, though we don't have any direct evidence thereof.

Then, when payday comes, boyfriend collects from girlfriend. And not in a civil manner, either. Coercive would be a better characterization. According to the Bennett findings, Barry would wait in the car while Watts-Brighthaupt cashed the check. That's an astounding showing of unboyfriendliness.

Sums matter a great deal in this narrative. If the contract that Barry had arranged for Watts-Brighthaupt had been a whopper—like, say, $150,000 over a year or something of that magnitude—then perhaps a romance could sustain the strain of a boyfriend looking for repayment of his "loans." But the actual sum of the contract was $15,000.

So, to summarize: Barry arranged poverty-level earnings for his girlfriend and used them to woo her. QED: Bad boyfriend.

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