Ward 4 Council candidate Max Skolnik is calling on incumbent Muriel D. Bowser (D) to release detailed cell phone records after the Washington Post reported she logged $3,016 in usage and roaming fees in a little more than a year.
In one of the sharpest attacks to date in the Ward 4 race, Skolnik said Bowser’s use of her government-issued cell phone is part of a “culture at the Wilson Building of terrible planning and abuse of public funds.”
He’s calling on Bowser to voluntarily release details of her calls so taxpayers “know the full story behind…this extravagant bill.”
In recent weeks, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) has moved to slash council spending on cell phones after members and top staffers ran up $61,000 in bills over the course of 16 months. Bowser racked up the highest bill, including $734.45 in charges in August
Bowser, who was out of the country at the time, said she incurred roaming charges after she used the phone to participate in a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Conference call.
Skolnick, the director of a youth non-profit, said Bowser should reimburse the city for her calls.
“While the families in Ward 4 sit at the table figuring out how to make ends meet, Council member Bowser vacations overseas and sticks us with an outrageous cell phone bill,” Skolnik said.
In an interview, Bowser dismissed Skolnik’s attack, saying she’s already explained why her bill was high.
“I participated in a call where a $100 million contract was discussed,” said Bowser, a city representative on the WMATA board. “Residents are not interested in this silly season. They are interesting in knowing a candidate’s positions and accomplishments and their plan to move Ward 4 forward. That is what I am focused on.”
Skolnik, one of six candidates vying in the Ward 4 Democratic primary on April 3, counters Bowser should have “planned better in advance” of her trip and used a “less costly means of dialing in” from out of the country.
Last month, Skolnik created some buzz around his candidacy after he posted video of himself shoveling the snow off the sidewalk in front of Bowser’s campaign office. Bowser, who is widely expected to win reelection, has been trying to stay above the fray.
“I will not engage in negative, silly, campaigning and respond to stunts. Period,” Bowser said Wednesday.
Bowser released several e-mails and list-serv messages that she said prove Ward 4 residents value her accessibility around the clock.
“Smart phones are a wise investment for those interested in an ideally highly responsive government and its elected and unelected workers,” one man wrote on the Petworth list-serv.