last week’s loose lips column raised some interesting points about the timing of Chairman Linda Cropp’s discussion of Councilman Adrian Fenty’s mishandling of his elderly clients’ money and subsequent discipline by the D.C. Bar (“Cropp’s Missed Opportunity,” 8/18). More important, the story raises significant considerations in this year’s mayoral election. Fenty attempts to minimize the severity of the D.C. Bar’s discipline, stating simply (and repeatedly) that “there has only been one case that there has ever been a problem with.” Fenty’s response is not only incomplete but should speak volumes about his ability to lead the District.
First, the “problem” that Fenty attempts to minimize deals with the core of his duties as a lawyer: basic competence. I respectfully submit that a core issue like competency in one’s profession is not something to be dismissed lightly. Rather, the D.C. Bar’s informal admonition found, among other violations, that Fenty violated Rule 1.1 of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct, requiring lawyers to “provide competent representation to a client” with “the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.” The D.C. Bar found that “the evidence in this matter clearly establishes that [Fenty] failed to act as a competent guardian/conservator of the ward’s property.”
Second, Fenty’s claim that his misconduct was limited to “one case” is, quite simply, untrue. In 1998, Fenty was appointed as personal representative of the estate of Herbert Eugene Bratton (deceased). Within a month of his appointment, the banks foreclosed on Mr. Bratton’s house. After two years on the case, Fenty had still failed to file the required documents and was summoned for a delinquency hearing. The judge ordered Fenty to withdraw from the case.
On Sept. 12, D.C. voters should consider carefully the implications of not just one, but two significant cases of misconduct on the District and its future.