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Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry could be headed toward his second D.C. Council censure in three years. This morning, the Council committee created to punish Barry for accepting cash from city contractors recommended censuring the mayor-for-life and stripping him of his committee chairmanship.
The five-member committee, made up of Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, at-large councilmembers Anita Bonds and David Grosso, and Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, voted unanimously for the recommendations.The full D.C. Council will vote on Barry’s punishment tomorrow.
Barry has already been censured and fined $13,600 by the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability for accepting the gifts.
“His conduct worsens the growing mistrust of District government officials and underscores claims that the Council’s role in the contract oversight process is fundamentally flawed,” McDuffie, the committee’s chairman, read from the report. The committee didn’t find any evidence of a quid pro quo between Barry and the contractors.
The committee’s report finds that Barry accepted $6,800 in cash payments from two city contractors, Keith Forney and Freddie Winston. Barry violated Council rules both by accepting gifts from a prohibited source and not recusing himself on a vote involving a contract payment to Forney’s company, according to the report.Forney and Winston didn’t coordinate their gifts, according to the report. Instead, Forney gave Barry several payments worth $2,800 in 2012 after Barry complained about IRS tax liens. Forney claimed that he gave the gifts to Barry “as a gesture of respect for Councilmember Barry’s legacy of work in the city.” At least one of the exchanges took place at the Stadium Club, the strip club/restaurant that Forney owns part of.
Winston gave Barry $4,000 after hearing Barry complain about the IRS bills, as well. Barry wanted more than $4,000, according to the report, but Winston refused to give him more.
In 2010, the Council censured Barry and took a committee chairmanship over his role in an earmarks scheme. McDuffie says the earlier censure played into the harshness of the committee’s recommendation, but says he isn’t sure whether it will be enough to deter Barry from ethical lapses in the future.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery