Last week, the city settled with Frank Harris Jr., the St. Elizabeths patient who had gouged his eyes out in March 2003.
Harris’ family had sued the city over the incident; the Fenty administration responded by billing Harris for a $2.2 million “offset” to cover medical costs he’d incurred over the years.
While the lawsuit has been settled, the Frank Harris Jr. Offset Justice Amendment Act lives. Introduced by At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson, the bill aims to prevent the mayor from ever again sending a bill to a legally insane person like Harris.
Only two councilmembers failed to cosponsor Mendelson’s legislation. One was At-Large Councilmember Carol Schwartz, who says her early opposition to the bill was part of her job as the council’s foremost taxpayer watchdog. “I felt we should have some leverage in a settlement,” she says. “What I hoped for happened.”
The other was Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser. In one of her first encounters with LL, Bowser expressed her dismay at being portrayed as a lapdog of the Fenty administration, as the previous LL had done. Such a perception would stem from the fact that Fenty threw his weight behind the effort to elect Bowser as his successor, helping her raise more than $200,000 to ward off a handful of other candidates in last spring’s special election, including a similarly well-financed Michael Brown.
Bowser explains that she did not wish to take an early position on the bill, and she may still vote for the bill as it works its way through the council.
Says Bowser, “If that makes me a lapdog, what does that make Carol?”