Beleaguered Washington, D.C. Councilman Marion Barry has one week to respond to the allegations outlined in the Bennett Report, released on February 16, which accused him of using taxpayer funds for personal purposes.
In another of a string of charges made against him since he returned to the council five years ago as the Ward 8 representative, Barry allegedly took a cut of a $15,000 contract he negotiated for a former aide, Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, who had also briefly been Barry’s girlfriend.
Other than a few brief comments made when work on the report began, the 73-year-old former D.C. mayor has been tight-lipped.
In a brief phone conversation with the AFRO on February 19, Barry said he wanted to discuss his and attorney Frank Cook’s plan of action, but that he would have to wait to do so.
“I can’t talk to the media about anything surrounding views of the matter right now,” Barry said. “But we will have something to say later.”
The funds in question are part of the councilman’s $1 million earmark money, funds that are routinely set aside for each councilmember’s pet projects.
Special counsel Robert Bennett oversaw the months-long, pro bono investigation into the council’s spending habits and his 107-page report included several instances of questionable council expenditures. According to Bennett and Councilwoman Mary Cheh, the allegations against Barry are worthy of review by the U. S. Attorney’s office.
“I was deeply saddened and disturbed by the findings and conclusions,” Cheh said.
“ it’s vital to the integrity of the council that all of what happened be fully disclosed to the public.”
“Nothing has been hidden, nothing has been held back and now we must implement the recommendations in Mr. Bennett’s report and move forward with reforms already started by the Council,” she said.
Meanwhile, the overall sentiment of the council is that Barry at the very least violated conflict of interest laws and should be held accountable. Among other measures, Barry stands to lose his chairmanship of the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development.
At-large Councilman Kwame Brown said Barry “should have taken some responsibility” and “expressed some remorse,” for his actions involving Watts-Brighthaupt.