Showtime for Friends of Fenty

By Elissa Silverman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 20, 2007

If ever it seemed worthwhile to accept the slings and arrows of public office in the District, of missing family dinners and soccer games while you sat before an advisory neighborhood commission, it might be when you inform your kids that they are going to see Hannah Montana in concert.

In the city's Verizon Center luxury suite.

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and City Administrator Dan Tangherlini, each parents of two daughters, scored tickets to the 'tween must-see, sold-out Jan. 7 show, courtesy of their boss, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).

Access to the luxury box is one of the biggest perks for public officials in the District, but control over who doles out tickets has prompted a spat between the mayor and the D.C. Council. Those in the two branches of government have shared a skybox at RFK Stadium, but legislators have said Fenty has unfairly exerted mayoral control over the Verizon Center box.

According to a list released by the mayor's office this week, the exclusive perch has been used mostly by Fenty's top aides, family members and influential contributors to his campaign. Those who received tickets said requests were handled by John Falcicchio, who was Fenty's finance director during his mayoral campaign and works in his bullpen as a mayoral adviser.

Fenty spokeswoman Carrie Brooks said that the list noted who requested tickets but that the people named might not have attended the event or might have given the ticket to someone else.

The luxury suite comes courtesy of Verizon Center and Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin, who offered it to the city after officials approved $50 million in taxpayer money this year to fund improvements to the 10-year-old arena. Pollin built the facility with his funds and has been largely credited with spurring a revival in the Chinatown area.

City officials said the box would be used for economic development purposes. The list included the names of developers Chris Donatelli, Marc Weller and Andrew Schwartzberg, all well-known Fenty supporters and campaign contributors.

Many of the tickets appear to have been used by mayoral staff members and political appointees. Those on the list include Fenty's brothers, Jesse and Shawn; Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin; the mayor's chief of staff, Tene Dolphin; and Brooks. The box has also been used by several community groups, including the anti-violence group Peaceoholics, the Calvin Woodland Foundation and the Raymond Recreation Center basketball team.

The list also reveals some musical tastes in local government.

Turns out the District's acting attorney general, Peter Nickles, Fenty's former general counsel, requested the chance to see the Boss, which in this case meant Bruce Springsteen.

Fenty political consultant Tom Lindenfeld, a New Jersey native, said Falcicchio asked him whether he would like to see Springsteen.

Others who appeared on the Springsteen list included Fenty's mother, Jan Fenty, Tangherlini and D.C. Council members Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), although Lindenfeld said Evans did not attend.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company