Marion Barry Cleared of Official Charges
Five months after D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry was censured and stripped of his committee chairmanship for giving a contract last year to an on-again, off-again girlfriend Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, the Office of Campaign Finance has admonished the former mayor but cleared him of violating city law.
Cecily E. Collier-Montgomery, director of the campaign finance office, reprimanded Barry (D-Ward 8) in an official order posted Monday after the office found that he did not follow the city’s regulations for employee conduct.
She wrote that Barry “failed to disclose his personal and financial relationship with Donna Watts-Brighthaupt. Disclosure of the relationship would have resulted in the transparency of the transaction and removed any cloud from the contract process.”
But Barry called the order a “vindication” at a news conference Monday and had harsh words for high-profile lawyer Robert S. Bennett, who led the D.C. Council’s independent investigation into the contract and into several earmarks Barry gave to groups in Ward 8. He accused Bennett of acting against the morality of the US Justice system, saying, “His attitude was guilty until proven innocent.”
Barry, whose legal troubles have pockmarked his storied political career, was apologetic to the public for using poor judgment. However, he vehemently maintains that he broke no laws to begin with.
The campaign finance office probe also cleared Barry’s staff and others involved in the earmarks process, though reprimanded his carelessness, writing that “Barry failed to closely monitor and oversee the activities of his employees and the operations. Because of these failures to take the appropriate action, Councilmember Barry’s conduct adversely affected the confidence of public integrity of District government.”
The probes into Barry’s contracts and earmarks were spurred by his arrest July 4, 2009, on allegations of stalking Watts-Brighthaupt in Anacostia Park. The charge was quickly dropped, but some council members questioned why Barry had hired Watts-Brighthaupt.