Two top officers of the Ward 8 Democrats are working hard to keep alive the group’s well-deserved reputation for petty infighting.
This time, a personal squabble between Ward 8 Democrats President Philip Pannell and Second Vice President Sandra “S.S.” Seegars has the D.C. police embroiled in the scrum.
The main Pannell–Seegars spat involves her objection to seating Pannell as the group’s president. Seegars appealed his victory to the D.C. Democratic State Committee because Pannell missed the deadline for getting on the ballot. The Ward 8 Dems’ executive committee voted to let him run. The matter was finally resolved last Wednesday, when state committee voted to make his overwhelming victory in the September 2005 election official.
But that night Pannell was in no mood to celebrate.
Earlier in the day, two uniformed D.C. police officers presented themselves at the offices of ADA Inc., in Anacostia, where Pannell works. According to ADA employee Phyllis Brown, the officers were looking for Pannell. “From what I’d seen, the police came in and was questioning Mr. Pannell about Ms. Seegars,” says Brown.
Pannell says the officers informed him that Seegars considers him a threat and that she was planning to seek a “stay away” order from the court. The officers were very polite, according to Pannell. “They seemed like they were trying to figure out what was going on,” rather than gauge whether he actually had threatened Seegars, he says.
Seegars says Pannell is playing dumb. “Phil said he was ‘going to get me’” after she challenged the election results, says Seegars. “In my neighborhood, when somebody puts out word that they are going to get you, that’s serious business,” she says. “If you see someone coming down the street who’s told a bunch of people they’re going to get you, you got to be ready to kill them where I live.”
In September, she contemplated getting a stay-away order but decided against it when she learned she would have to hire someone to serve the order. Earlier this week, she asked couple of cops she knows whether they would serve Pannell if she sought an order. “They said that they would,” she says.
Why the unidentified officers took it upon themselves to do a little political mediation is anyone’s guess. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department says the department is looking into the incident.
Seegars claims she has good reason to fear Pannell, because, as she puts it, “he is mentally unstable.…I know he was on medication and I don’t know if he is now,” she says.
The mental-health reference is “a low blow,” says Pannell, who has openly talked about his struggles with bipolar disorder. He says he no longer takes medication because his illness is under control. Pannell says he “has been blessed” by a full recovery. “And besides, who could I beat up?” he asks.
“She is a profoundly disturbed person,” says Pannell. “I have a certifiable condition. I’ve made no secret of that. So what’s her problem?”