Investigators hired by the D.C. City Council accused council member Marion Barry securing a $15,000 contract for his ex-girlfriend so that she could repay a loan he had given her.
Post reporter Nikita Stewart was online at 11 a.m. today to answer your questions about the report by attorney Robert S. Bennett and its implications for Barry. Excerpts follow.
Anonymous: Barry says that no rules are written down re Council contracts, therefore he broke none. Is this true?
Nikita Stewart: According to Robert Bennett and Amy Sabrin, the lead investigators, there are several codes within the city law that would apply to Barry's actions on the contracts.
Vienna, Va.: I've lived in the D.C. area my whole life and was surprised to see that D.C. council members are allowed to give earmarks. How does that process work and is there no council review/process to check what the money is being used for? Seems to me that any government (federal being the biggest abuser of this) that allows members to have some pot of money they can direct however they see fit is asking for problems.
Nikita Stewart: The council's earmark process is fairly new. It grew tremendously after controversy over an earmark to Ford's Theatre a few years ago. Several council members thought it was unfair to give millions of dollars to a project that was community-based. That opened a door of I'll-give-you-this-if-you-give-me-that. In fiscal year 2009, the council and mayor gave out nearly $48 million in earmarks. According to the Bennett report, Council member Jack Evans backed or co-sponsored the largest amount: $16.5 million. But Council member Barry sponsored the most grants, divvying up $8 million among 41 groups and projects.
Silver Spring, Md.: When Post writers mention, and quote others that mention, "the good that Marion Barry has done for the city," can they give specifics or press the source to elaborate? Give us examples of Barry's "good" legacy. Thank you.
Nikita Stewart: Go around this city, and you'll find someone who says "Marion Barry gave me my first job." His summer youth jobs program, which continues under Mayor Fenty, is legendary for its giving young people not only a job, but hopefully building a work ethic. Also, there are plenty of folks who credit Barry with helping to build the black middle class by opening the door for government jobs for which they were qualified but had not been receiving.
Washington, D.C.: Is the City Council likely to take any action or will they just ignore them?
Nikita Stewart: Some council members said yesterday that they believe the report must be referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray said in an interview that censure is also possible. The council will likely take some action in this election year when residents appear more worried about corruption and government waste during hard economic times.