Some local activists are horrified by Mayor Marion Barry’s nomination of attorney Marlene Johnson to head the D.C. Public Service Commission, which regulates public utilities. In the late ’80s, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s inspector general criticized Barry administration officials—including Johnson, who was then the mayor’s legal advisor—for taking boozy trips to the Caribbean on the public’s dollar. Under the guise of a joint venture between D.C. and the Virgin Islands, District officials were supposed to be helping the islands’ government develop a personnel system. (Yes, the D.C. government was giving advice on creating a personnel system. No, we’re not kidding.) Johnson held consulting contracts with both the District and the Virgin Islands—all while collecting a city paycheck as head of the Alcoholic Beverage Control board. In a report on the $250,000 project (which was co-managed by Charles Lewis, former drug dealer to the mayor), the D.C. Council found that when the Virgin Islands’ funds for the program dried up, Johnson got the District to reimburse her for $4,843 in expenses she incurred while working for the islands’ government. At her confirmation hearing last week, Johnson was represented by attorney Fred Cooke, the former D.C. corporation counsel who defended the city when a federal grand jury investigated the V.I. scandal. With Cooke’s help, more than 40 people showed up to testify in Johnson’s favor, and the D.C. Council seems poised to confirm her. But there’s a little more history that ought to make councilmembers think twice before casting their votes: On her résumé, Johnson claims to be the co-author of D.C.’s Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act. The law established the District’s cumbersome civil service system, a Byzantine mess that has made firing lazy, incompetent, and corrupt city employees nearly impossible.
Whitewashing Women On Feb. 13, the Freedom Forum premiered the first video in its four-part series on media coverage of Congress since World War II. But much to the horror of the members of the weaker sex who attended the Capitol Hill screening, the segment didn’t feature a single female reporter. Instead, it showed interviews with scores of male reporters, some of whom were stationed abroad or in New York bureaus at the time. “It was absolutely disgusting,” fumes reporter Sarah McClendon, one of the many women who covered Congress during the ’40s. “There was not one mention of women reporters.” Freedom Forum spokeswoman Cheryl Arvidson concedes the omission, but says the proj-
ect is “a work in progress” and that the video series comprises just one-third of the $1-million study of Congress and the media. She says the other segments do include women. “The project should be judged as a unit,” Arvidson says.
Oh, Hilda At a meeting of the D.C. Statehood Party last Wednesday, a party member was overheard discussing the results of Statehood’s big Feb. 20 protest in front of the D.C. financial control board offices. The woman said that after the demonstration she ran into At-Large D.C. Councilmember Hilda Mason, ostensible head of the Statehood party, who inquired whether the party had been involved in the rally. Upon learning that Statehood had in fact sponsored the event, Mason, who makes more than $70,000 a year as a professional politician, told the mystified woman, “I would have gone if it hadn’t been a political event.”