D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) allegedly took a cut of a city contract he brokered for his former girlfriend and earmarked hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund organizations he indirectly controlled, according to a special report released today by Hogan & Hartson partner Robert Bennett.
The report, delivered to the D.C. Council this morning, concluded that Barry skirted D.C. law and D.C. Council rules when he obtained a personal services contract for Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, a former campaign worker turned lover. The report recommends that Barry’s activities involving the contract should be referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for investigation into possible violations of the law.
D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray released a statement this afternoon stating that the council would not take any action on the report until after Barry and other members have a chance to comment on its findings. He also noted that Bennett would have an opportunity to add supplemental findings.
Gray nonetheless called the report’s findings “deeply disconcerting.”
According to the report, Barry hired Watts-Brighthaupt to draft a proposal for a program called Emerging Leaders of Ward Eight. In the process, Barry allegedly “misled” authorities about the contract’s purpose and “did not disclose his financial, personal, and sexual relationships” with Watts-Brighthaupt, who was paid $15,000 for the project. Barry then allegedly required Watts-Brighthaupt to use a portion of that money to pay back loans he had made to her.
“Mr. Barry personally delivered a contract payment check to her, insisted that they go directly to a bank, waited in the car while she cashed the check, and when she returned to the car, required her to pay a portion of the funds over to him, claiming that the payments he made on her behalf were loans, not gifts,” the report states.
Bennett also found that Barry sponsored $450,000 in earmarks for six “councils” in Ward 8, which he oversaw through a supporter. “A handful of individuals close to” Barry made “tens of thousands of dollars” from the councils, the report contends.
The report recommends that the D.C. Council also refer the earmark grants to the authorities, including the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, for investigation into possible legal violations.