D.C. Council member employed by street-paver wants more street paving

December 12, 2012

In Anita D. Bonds’s short career as a frontline politico, she’s attracted quite a bit of grief for her employment at Fort Myer Construction Corp., which does tens of millions of dollars in paving and other contracting for the city. If there’s a stretch of asphalt in this town, chances are it was laid down by a Fort Myer crew or mixed in a Fort Myer plant, which poses the potential for conflicts of interest should Bonds participate in infrastructure-related matters as a D.C. Council member.

Part of this controversy has been prompted by the fact that Bonds (D) has been rather hard to pin down on her intentions vis-a-vis her outside employment. In an interview with me last week, she suggested she would take a leave of absence from her job as Fort Myer’s corporate relations director, at least for the period prior to the April 23 special election. However, on the night of her appointment as an at-large D.C. Council member Monday, she said she had no such intention to do so after speaking to her bosses. “They have not recommended that,” she said.

She further suggested Monday that it was “chauvinistic” to suggest she should step down from her job while other council members with potential conflicts keep theirs. That was a not-so-veiled reference to David Catania (I-At Large), who is a vice president at M.C. Dean, maintainers of city traffic signals and, perhaps, streetlights; Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), counsel at Patton Boggs, law firm to development and business interests galore; and perhaps even Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), law professor at George Washington University, behemoth Foggy Bottom landowner.

While it’s somewhat disingenuous to suggest other members have escaped media scrutiny, Bonds has a point about her colleagues. But that point will be awfully hard to defend if Bonds’s council agenda looks the way she described it on NewsChannel 8 this morning:

“The infrastructure, the old clay pipes that we have in the ground that cannot take the volume of water discharge, those kinds of things we really need to look at,” she said. “Also … we have to pay a little more attention to the repair of these streets. Because when you’re driving along, or even riding your bike, it’s very very dangerous.”

You can, like Catania, work for an electrical contractor and avoid conflicts by focusing on health care and education, recusing yourself from occasional votes affecting your employer. You can’t, however, work for the city’s dominant paving contractor, focus your council work on street paving, and hope to walk the straight and narrow.

A hat tip to Chuck Thies for making note of her comments, which begin at 3:30 in the clip embedded above.

Later in the interview, Bonds again revised her intentions regarding her outside job: “I’m very interested in giving [the council job] 100 percent of me. I don’t know yet what the requirements are. … Give me a little time, and I will work it out.”

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · December 12, 2012