Loose Lips Daily: Mayor For Life Cleared
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Good morning, sweet readers! Well, no surprises last night. Ali picked Roberto, which LL's wife saw coming since the first episode. LL's brain was sufficiently mushified by the entire series and now LL is filled with shame. News time:
Marion Barry Is Not Guilty: Former Mayor For Life Marion Barry did not break any city laws by awarding a $10,000 contract to his girlfriend special lady friend, Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, the Office of Campaign Finance ruled yesterday, though the OCF did admonish Barry for breaking council ethics rules. "But Barry called the order a "vindication" at a news conference Monday and had harsh words for high-profile lawyer Robert S. Bennett, who led the D.C. Council's independent investigation into the contract and into several earmarks Barry gave to groups in Ward 8," writes the Post's Nikita Stewart. "'Mr. Bennett was the judge, juror, executor,' Barry said at a news conference he held at the John A. Wilson Building. 'His attitude was guilty until proven innocent, whereas the OCF's attitude was the American way: innocent until proven guilty. Reading the report, there is no way anyone could not conclude that this is not a vindication of me and my actions.'" So, what was Bennett's reaction?"'The report speaks for itself,' Bennett said Monday. 'There's not a single thing in the report that's been rebutted.' One of the most damning findings in Bennett's report was that Barry personally delivered a check to Watts-Brighthaupt and then drove her to the bank to cash it. Barry had loaned Watts-Brighthaupt money to help pay her mortgage before he gave her a personal services contract to develop a program called 'Emerging Leaders of Ward Eight.' Bennett also found that Watts-Brighthaupt's written work for the program had been copied from sources on the Internet. But Kathy S. Williams, the campaign finance office's general counsel, found that Barry did not violate the law because Watts-Brighthaupt was qualified and delivered 'a satisfactory written product.' 'It cannot be reasonably concluded that the Councilmember hired Ms. Watts-Brighthaupt under a $10,000 personal services contract to repay him for the loan of one mortgage payment in the amount of $700.00,' Williams wrote." Watt-Brighthaupt, curiously enough, went to the Twitter to say that she was never Barry's girlfriend. (H/T DCist). LL seems to remember a City Paper cover story that may suggest otherwise. The AP's Nafeesa Syeed caught up with W-B, who said "the council acted hastily when it censured Barry and she knew all along that Barry did nothing wrong regarding the contract. She said the investigations have taken a toll on her personal and professional lives. 'I'm elated that those findings were made and I'm glad it's over,' she said. 'It knocked me down but it didn't knock me out.'"
AFTER THE JUMP: Scenes from Barry's press conference, more fence fencing, gray lady on Gray-Fenty...
The Barry Follies: LL was present at Barry's fun news conference and recorded some video he'd hoped to post. Unfortunately, Barry's mumbling speaking style thwarted that plan (you failed LL, new iPhone!). Other details: Barry was being followed by a cameraman for his new reality show (he didn't offer specifics about when and where the show would air); Barry grimaced when LL introduced himself and said he worked for the City Paper (Barry said he would be willing to consider giving this new LL a chance, like he did with Mike DeBonis before DeBonis pulled some "National Enquirer shit."); Barry wouldn't say who he's going to endorse for mayor nor when he's going to do it (Tim Craig has more at the Post); and Barry's sounds a little bit paranoid when asked what he learned from the whole fracas: "My enemies in the media and the public never sleep," he said. "I know that, but sometimes I get too comfortable" (from The Examiner's Freeman Klopott.)
The Headlines Say It All: From the Post's Breaking News Blog, yesterday: "MARION BARRY CLEARED OF VIOLATING D.C. LAWS." Too hot! From the Examiner, this morning: "REPORT: BARRY VIOLATED ETHICS BY AWARDING LOVER 10K CONTRACT." Too cold! From the Post, today: "MARION BARRY REPRIMANDED BUT CLEARED OF VIOLATING D.C. LAW." Just right!
Summer Working, Had Me a Blast: LL hardly knows where to start to sort out the the well-intentioned, full-of-problems, summer job program. "D.C. Council members blasted Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration Monday over the revelation of more than $11 million overspent on the Summer Youth Employment Program. What started as a $23 million budget to pay 20,000 young people minimum wage for jobs from alley cleanup to administrative duties has grown to about $34 million, according to District finance officials who testified before the council. The overruns come as Fenty has proposed extending the six-week program to 7 1/2 weeks in an effort to combat joblessness prior to the start of the school year," reports Leah Fabel in the Examiner. The program's cost overruns tallied $56 million in 2007, 2008, Fabel reports. Yesterday the Council held one marathon hearing on the program that included, the disappointed grandmother of a would-be Michael Jackson impersonator, summer job workers who were being paid while they argued for the extension of the summer job program, homeless advocates decrying the mayor's plan to use federal assistance for needy families to extend the program, teenagers decrying the false choice between funding for the homeless and funding for the summer job program, Ronald Moten bashing mayoral hopeful and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, City Auditor Deborah Nichols bashing Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration for showing a "reckless disregard" for the city's finances, and Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh saying the whole thing "blows." The best tweet of the day, comes from WBJ's Michael Neibauer. "If this weren't an election year, I'd pre-write my 2011 SYEP stories now. Like an obit. Or Memorial Day traffic story," said Neibs, who also provided an amusing play-by-play of the hearing. And the The council is set to vote on whether to extend the program today.
This Sounds Fency: Guess how many people have been busted under the Fenty's administration breaking the city's fence-height-building rules? That's right, only Vincent Gray. Whether that's because Fenty's out to get Gray, or because Gray's rule-breaking was so egregious probably depends on who you're backing for mayor. The Post's Ann Marimow has both takes: Gray, who is challenging the mayor in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary, said the findings support his assertion that he was singled out and given the runaround by the city's bureaucracy during a seven-month saga involving the black aluminum fence that surrounded his Hillcrest home, which has been partly dismantled. "It corroborates what I suspected and says to me it's political harassment," Gray said. "I suspect, but will never know, that this would have been very routine if I were not running for mayor." In April, the department issued a series of $300-a-day citations totaling $2,400 because Gray had not completed an application for a 5-foot-7-inch fence, which he installed two years ago without proper permits. Gray was ordered to lower or move the fence in the spring after an obscure but powerful Public Space Committee overseen by the mayor subsequently found that he had not provided sufficient justification for exceeding the District's 3 1/2 -foot height limit on fences built in public space. The fate of the fence emerged as a campaign issue, with Fenty and his supporters saying that Gray should have known that permits were required. Attorney General Peter Nickles said Monday that "the fact that there haven't been other fines is an indication of how egregious it was and how slow they were to file — not that there was politics involved." "The people that did the work and imposed the fine are independent bureaucrats. I didn't tell them to impose fines. The mayor didn't tell them to impose fines," added Nickles, who has said that he monitored the process to ensure that the chairman's case was handled like any other." Marimow turns to Mayor Anthony Williams' former spokesman, Tony Bullock, for his breakdown: "I sincerely doubt that Fenty and his team are trying to make an issue of this," said Bullock, who is not affiliated with either campaign. "But I think that more than likely, agency folks are nervous about being accused of whitewashing a violation, so they are going overboard in terms of enforcement when common sense and discretion would be more appropriate." LL, who seems to remember the fence issue coming up a couple of times on the campaign trail, is agnostic on the question. So how about this: Let's actually look for evidence of non-candidate scofflaws who've gotten away with it. If anyone spots a neighbor who isn't named "Vincent Gray" building a fence taller than 42 inches sans permit, drop me a line.
Gray Lady Peep Show: The New York Times Yeganeh June Torbati takes a the pulse of the mayoral race. Not much new in the way of news for those closely watching the race. The focus of the article is mostly about why Fenty is locked in a tight race, despite his accomplishments and lack of substantial policy differences between himself and Gray. Fenty breaks out the now familiar line that part of the reason is because he has "not always done a particularly good job of connecting with voters. 'If you cannot communicate to people how much you have done, and how hard it’s been, and how important it’s been to them, you are going to have people who are disconnected,' he said. 'Some people very plainly need more information, and if we don’t get them that information, they really may not vote for us.'" Umm, sounds like a more effective press operation might help.
OCF reports should start coming in soon, check back for reports.
Georgetown Dish interview Mendo [Dish]
Eleanor Holmes Norton is on Newstalk at 10.