The Office of Campaign Finance has declared that Marion Barry violated no city law when he gave his girlfriend Donna Watts-Brighthaupt a $5,000-a-month contract with the city. The Post broke the story this afternoon that the OCF has declared Barry’s actions to be within the bounds of the law, in a ruling that boggled my mind pretty hard. The PDF can be downloaded from the OCF Website. Their conclusions consist of the fact that Marion Barry, as a member of the City Council, may award personal services, contracts or a trust deed with the knowledge & consent of the Secretary of the Council, who did not know about Barry’s relationship with Donna Watts-Brighthaupt (DWB). Despite the fact that DWB was in debt to Barry, they conclude, “it cannot be reasonably concluded that the Councilmember hired Ms. Watts-Brighthaupt under a $10,000 personal services contract to repay him for the loan of one mortgage payment in the amount of $700.00.”
In addition, the report concluded, “Simply put, the Councilmember’s behavior did not meet the standard established by the [District of Columbia Campaign Finance Reform and Conflict of Interest] Act. The Councilmember hired Ms. Watts-Brighthaupt for a job and she produced a product. It may have been imprudent for him to hire a person with whom he had a close relationship; but, the overriding principles of disclosure do not govern such a relationship.”
The censure will stand, though, as while Marion Barry did not break any laws, his acts were in violation of the Council’s ethics guidelines and he was subject to discipline from his peers. The question remains: what will it take to finally get Barry gone from city politics? I mean, it’s bad enough that there are appearances of impropriety between Mayor Fenty and Sinclair Skinner and others, but no direct evidence, but when we have a councilman steering not insignificant amounts of money to his girlfriend, well, we just end up the butt of jokes.