Without debate, the D.C. Council unanimously approved new rules Tuesday requiring members to “treat other members with dignity and respect and refrain from using profane, indecent or abusive language” during public meetings.
Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) pushed the resolution, designed to amend the council’s Code of Conduct, after David A. Catania and Marion Barry got into a profanity-laced shouting match on Valentine’s Day at a council retreat.
If a similar spat occurs at another meeting, Brown will be empowered to try to remove members from the proceeding, assuming it does not interfere with their ability to cast a vote.
Barry (D-Ward 8) did not vote on the measure because he missed Tuesday’s council meeting.
Though Catania (I-At large) supported the measure, he told reporters after the meeting he was disheartened by Brown’s decision to bring it up for a vote. In a barbed critique of his colleagues, Catania said it was ironic that the council was worried about bad language at the same time the body was struggling with numerous ethical lapses.
Catania noted few of his colleagues spoke up when former council member Harry Thomas Jr. was accused of stealing more than $300,000 in city money.
“For this body to inject itself as (etiquette columnists) Emily Post or Miss Manners while last year the majority of members said nothing when a colleague essentially admitted to stealing,” said Catania, as his words trailed off. “Civility is rooted in respect, and civility is rooted in integrity.”
Catania added he’s tried to conduct himself with “honor and integrity” but has been increasingly frustrated by the council’s “backslide” due to corruption and ethics concerns.
“It’s devolving into a place I don’t like,” said Catania, who was also frustrated the media was asking about Brown’s resolution instead of Catania’s bill to reform support services for at-risk youths in the aftermath of the 2010 South Capitol Street shooting.
But Catania’s shouting match with Barry — including calling him a “despicable human being” — has generated lots of buzz in political circles across the city.
On Saturday, according to the City Paper, the chairman of the Ward 8 Democrats urged residents to write Catania a letter asking that he apologize to Barry.
“We’re going to take him into the back room and kick his tail,” the Rev. R. Joyce Scott told Loose Lips columnist Alan Suderman. “And we’re going to do that in public.”
On Tuesday, Catania told reporters he will “not apologize” for his feud with Barry.
“I meant every word I said,” Catania said.
In an interview, Barry responded by saying he’s confident Brown will “deal with David.”
“The council will deal with David Catania, not me,” Barry said. “The code of conduct will deal with that. ... I am not going to fall into the trap of making this personal...He ought to apologize to the council.”