Loose Lips

Marion Barry’s Autobiography: The Secret Chapter

Marion Barry's recent autobiography Mayor for Life earned mixed reviews, thanks in part to its failure to really face all of Barry's misdeeds. The Washington Post called it more of a "tell-enough" than a "tell-all." Meanwhile, LL griped that the book glossed over one of Barry's more dubious accomplishments—earning a record two censures from his D.C. Council colleagues.

Among the omissions, the book only briefly alludes to the 2010 D.C. Council censure that Barry received for allegedly steering government money to on-and-off girlfriend Donna Watts-Brighthaupt. How could Barry not put a story that juicy in his book?

As it turns out, Barry—or at least co-writer Omar Tyree—did. Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, LL has obtained a draft of Barry's book that includes a section on the saga that splashed Barry's alleged sexual demands across the front page of Washington City Paper.

(As for why one of Barry's Council staffers had drafts of his book in her email account in the first place, check out LL's column this week.)

You can read an excerpt of the deleted section below. Like the final version of Mayor for Life, the Watts-Brighthaupt segment abounds with self-aggrandizement, protestations of Barry's innocence, and a liberal approach to the facts.

First, a recap. In 2008, Barry took Watts-Brighthaupt on as his driver. Still, Barry claims in the draft that he had no sexual interest in Watts-Brighthaupt. If anything, he was worried people would think he did.

"But I don't want people getting things mixed up," Barry recalls telling her in the draft. "I'm not trying to hit on you and I'm not trying to interact."

Soon enough, though, Barry and Watts-Brighthaupt began what he describes as a troubled "intimate relationship." In 2009, officers for the U.S. Park Police arrested the Ward 8 councilmember and charged him with stalking Watts-Brighthaupt.

While the charge was soon dropped, the incident would publicize both Barry's relationship with Watts-Brighthaupt and his allegedly illicit use of government money on her behalf. Washington City Paper published an angry phone conversation where Watts-Brighthaupt accused Barry of tossing her out of a hotel room at the Democratic National Convention in Denver because she wouldn't give him oral sex, an incident that Barry's draft describes as a "falling out over intimacy."

"The article totally blindsided me," Barry writes of the story in the draft.

As more came out about Barry's use of personal services contracts and earmarks to Watts-Brighthaupt and some of his other associates, the D.C. Council under then-Chairman Vince Gray authorized an investigation. The draft blames the unfavorable result of that investigation, which accused Barry of taking a cut of Watts-Brighthaupt's Council money as a payment for ill-defined "loans," on attorney Bob Bennett. Bennett lead the investigation into Barry and would later go on to be Gray's lawyer during the federal investigation into his 2010 mayoral campaign, a coincidence Barry claims biased the eventual Bennett Report against him.

"That was definitely a conflict of interest on his part," Barry writes.

In an email to LL, Watts-Brighthaupt generally disputes the account of their relationship in the draft.

"When relating to past acquaintances, a gentleman would find tact, humility and kindness in his words....without altering truth," she writes.

Below, an excerpt deleted from Mayor for Life, obtained via FOIA:

From me being around her and helping her to cope with her various problems, we evolved into an intimate relationship, which was a mistake. She wasn’t mentally stable enough for a relationship, but I didn’t realize it yet.

So I got involved with her and took her out to the Democratic Convention in Denver in 2008, and we had a falling out over intimacy. Several months later in Washington, she talked about it in an article with The City Paper. The article totally blindsided me.

I said, “This woman is crazy.”

At the same time, her husband was jealous and was still trying to get back with her, so he publicized some recorded conversations I had with Donna in the follow-up newspaper article. That came out in the news too. So I stopped dealing with her for a while.

Once she finally divorced her husband, I was working on an Emerging Leaders program for the Washington youth, which was one of several new services I wanted to put into a budget for Ward 8. I was chair of the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development, as well as on the Committee of Finance and Revenue.

Donna offered to help write up a proposal for how the Emerging Leaders program could work, and she put together a dynamite proposal. As a consultation fee for her work and on the program, she was paid a total of $15,000.

In the meantime, she owed me some money from other personal loans and things that I had given her, so she wrote me out a check for a few hundred dollars, but not anything major.

Well, an investigation came out, where I was accused of getting kickbacks from city contracts with Donna. But the news really hit the fan when I admitted to a reporter from The Washington Post that Donna had been my girlfriend. That’s when all of the programs that I had earmarked for funding came under scrutiny. Millions of dollars in city programming for the year was under question that had nothing to do with me and Donna, but a Special Counsel investigation and the media were trying to link everything to corruption or a misappropriation of funds.

Once again, my relationship with a woman had gotten me into a world of trouble. But when the reporter from The Washington Post first asked me about my relations with Donna, since The City Paper had already published an article about us, I didn’t want to lie about it. However, I had no idea they were going to try to use that information and tear down every other program I had in the budget for the year. That led to more charges against me and a big dispute in the council over how much of the information was relevant to budget funding or if I could be found guilty. It was a charge of unethical practices more than anything, where I was being accused of misallocating certain earmarked monies.

The case went before the board of electors with five other charges and a council hearing. In the hearing, they hired attorney Bob Bennett as the suggested council to presiding on the case. But Bob Bennett had a conflict of interest, because council member Vincent Gray’s daughter worked for his law firm. Mr. Bennett was also the personal attorney of Vincent Gray, so he could not have been unbiased on the case. That was definitely a conflict of interest on his part, where at the same time, they were judging me for a conflict of interest charges for my relationship with Donna. I failed to point that out on the case when I should have.

Eventually, the council found me not guilty of the accusations, but they voted unanimously to strip me of my chair and committee positions.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • No Resources

    So she was cheating on her husband with Barry, and got him in trouble.....

    I would have kicked her out my hotel as well!

  • Sunshine Heals All

    African American U.S. Representative J.C. Watts, Jr. best characterized Marion Barry, Jr. when he referred to Barry as a "Race Hustling Poverty Pimp"

  • What the hell?

    Has it ever occurred to anyone that Marion barry's pants live a life of their own?

  • What the helll part 2?

    On the other hand, that cover caption is grossly disrespectful to all involved, including the staff and the readership, and any casual passerbys.


  • I. Rex

    "Donna offered to help write up a proposal for how the Emerging Leaders program could work, and she put together a dynamite proposal." My word, this man has no shame. I remember reading about that "dynamite proposal" and how it was obvious cut and paste plagiarism of an internet article. I guess deleting a header is worth 15K though.

  • UNC-G Grad
  • Emanuel

    Notice how I am not surprised! As a native Washingtonian 33 years old who lived through Marion Barry s reign, nothing surprises me!