Maroin Barry, Councilmeber Ward 8 During an interview with LL
Maroin Barry, Councilmeber Ward 8 During an interview with LL

In reporting out our story on Sharon Bowen, a woman linked professionally and personally to Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, it was difficult to figure out what she exactly did for the residents of the District.

Between spring 2007 and spring 2008, Barry had awarded her $50,000 in taxpayer-funded contracts. From our sources, we kept hearing two things: Bowen was a “class act” and Barry’s girlfriend. None of our sources could talk with deep knowledge about her actual work. All city records have to show for it are invoices written by Bowen and the Barry-approved personal services contracts.

We are just supposed to know that Bowen worked in the areas of poverty reduction (specifically on organizing a Poverty Summit), working with the Ward 8 Business Council, and to “ensure that the vision of Councilmember Marion Barry is fulfilled.”  Does this seem like $50,000 worth of work?

When asked about Bowen’s work, Ward 8 Business Council Executive Director James Bunn admitted it wasn’t rocket science. He said Bowen essentially went door-to-door to identify Ward 8 businesses. If she made a report on her findings, he didn’t see one.

It all feels like work you give an intern. Or something Barry should have delegated to his constituent services office or an elected ANC commissioner or a staffer at the Ward 8 Business Council. This does not feel like $50,000 work you give to a woman who votes in Ohio.

At the time of Bowen’s work, poverty in the District was a very real problem, one that hadn’t changed since the last recession. According to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, the gap between high-wage and low-wage workers had reached an all-time high in 2007 and poverty levels were at their highest in more than a decade.