Fenty Car

While us city hall reporter types are on the subject of the mayor’s personal conveyance, LL ran the mayor’s plates (CV-6154) through the DMV ticket payment database.

He got a hit!

The mayor’s Smart Car Fortwo Passion Cabriolet picked up a $50 ticket on Monday, May 11, for ‘SPEED 11-15 OVR LIMT’ while going westbound on the 5500 block of East Capitol Street NE [screenshot].

Mafara Hobson, mayoral spokesperson, says the ticket was issued by a camera. (Makes sense—-LL would love to meet the cop with the balls to write the mayor a speeding ticket.)

Hobson says that Fenty was driving the car when the ticket was issued.

OK, but what was Hizzoner doing in the far eastern reaches of the District—-just blocks from Prince George’s County? That’s a question that Fenty’s public schedule doesn’t quite answer; there were no events that day in the vicinity.

What is in the vicinity is the residence of Veronica Washington, the mayor’s personal assistant, who is regularly seen riding shotgun in the vehicle with Fenty and lives just off of East Capitol Street. Before Hobson confirmed that Hizzoner himself was at the wheel, LL considered the possibility that the car was being driven by Washington. There were rumblings several months back that she was taking the car home on occasion.

[UPDATE, 6:30 P.M.: Allow LL to be clear that he does NOT mean to insinuate that Fenty was on his way to or from Washington’s residence when the ticket was issued; only that the location of the ticket led LL to ask some questions. Hobson tells LL that Hizzoner was doing a walkthrough of Watts Branch Rec Center, a few blocks away.][UPDATE, 8:10 P.M.: Hobson fills in a few details: The ticket was issued at 3:19 p.m., she says, and the walkthrough had been scheduled from 2 p.m. to 3, to be followed by a press conference at D.C. Public Schools headquarters at 825 North Capitol Street. An media advisory LL dug out of his inbox says the presser had been scheduled for 3:15 p.m.—-so that’s why he was speeding!]

Yesterday evening, LL queried Washington’s neighbors on the matter. One woman who lives across the street from Washington, LaNay Carter, recognized the car when shown a picture. Carter said she’d seen the car in the neighborhood multiple times per week, not at any particular time of day. Two other residents of the block didn’t recognize the car, but three households that sit across the alley from Washington all told LL that they had seen the car multiple times, going in and out of Washington’s garage, which opens onto the alley.

One resident across the alley, who declined to give her name, said she’d seen the car two or three times a week; that person said the car sometimes “goes in the garage and stays.” Another cross-alley neighbor, Jasmine Dunston, says, “I’ll see it at least once a week” going into the garage.

Why is it an issue if Washington is using the car?

The car is municipally owned, and city law holds that such autos are to be used “only in the performance of the officer’s or employee’s official duties.” Furthermore, the law states, “travel between the officer’s or employee’s residence and workplace” is specifically prohibited.

However, the same statute provides that those rules do “not apply to the Mayor or, with the approval of the Mayor, to officers and employees of the District government the character of whose duties make such transportation necessary.”

Attorney General Peter Nickles, in a statement provided in response to LL’s queries [PDF], says the mayor indeed approved Washington’s use of the car. Nickles says Washington drove the car “on rare occasions” and “in furtherance of her official duties.”

Thus Washington’s actions, Nickles states, “were lawful, proper, necessary, and appropriate.”

Question is, what in the character of Washington’s duties allows use of the car? As the mayor’s special assistant, Washington earns $107,635, which would seem to be enough to fund her own vehicle.

LL asked for elaboration on what about her work responsibilities makes her use of the tiny car necessary and also for any written authorization issued by Fenty. Thus far, he has received neither.

This morning, LL pursued the ticket and the use of the car with Fenty, who declined to comment on the ticket, saying he hadn’t yet received any citation in the mail (probably because the citation would be sent to the car’s registrant—-the city). As for its take-home use, he directed all comments to Hobson.

Oh, and, says Hobson, “He’ll pay the ticket.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery