D.C. Council Censures Marion Barry for Taking Cash Payments from City Contractors

Aaron C. Davis and Mike DeBonis, Washington Post, September 17, 2013

Marion Barry, the city’s most well-known and polarizing politician, was censured Tuesday by his D.C. Council colleagues for taking thousands of dollars in cash payments from contractors with business before the city.

The council voted 9 to 4 to strip Barry of his committee chairmanship, with some colleagues describing Barry’s lapse as another mark on the city’s dismal ethics record. In the past two years, three council members have pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.

For Barry, the censure was the second in three years and another transgression in a checkered political career.

As mayor in 1990, Barry was convicted of cocaine possession. More recently, as a council member, tax troubles resulted in probation. He was censured and stripped of a chairmanship in 2010 for giving a council contract to a girlfriend and directing city funds to nonprofit groups he created and controlled.

After that sanction, Barry lost his leadership post for a year. This time, the earliest Barry could regain a chairmanship is 2015.

Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), who chaired a disciplinary panel that investigated Barry’s conduct, urged the full council to support the committee’s recommendation, saying the seriousness of Barry’s violation and his record of “recidivism” merited a “swift and serious” response from the council.

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Barry began a wandering defense of his actions, saying he “cooperated fully” with the panel. He then grew more defiant, questioning the council’s authority to remove his chairmanship.

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According to a report issued by the panel, Barry had told Keith Forney, the owner of Forney Enterprises, in early 2012 that he was “experiencing financial difficulty” related to a federal tax lien but “did not overtly ask for money.”

At least one of the cash payments, the report said, was passed from Forney to Barry during a meeting at the Stadium Club, a Northeast Washington strip club co-owned by Forney.

The panel found “insufficient evidence of a quid pro quo arrangement.” Both Barry and Forney told the panel that the payments were not in exchange for any particular act.

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Barry said afterward that he was “not disappointed” in the sanction. “That’s not the only thing in life, to chair a committee,” he said.

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