Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this article inaccurately reported the compensation received by Metro board member Marcell Solomon. The article said Solomon, who represents Prince George's County, has been paid nearly $73,000 for his Metro work and other county service this year. The article should have said that compensation was for this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Metro Chief Cuts Barry A Break, Then a Check

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 16, 2008

It was a hot and hazy summer evening.

D.C. Council member Marion Barry was in his champagne-colored Mercedes-Benz parked on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in the heart of Ward 8, his district in Southeast Washington. The driver's window was down, he recalled, because he had been talking to an acquaintance on the street. It was 6:45 p.m.

Suddenly, he said, a Metrobus sideswiped his car on the passenger side. He said that he honked his horn to stop the bus but that it kept going. He remembered the route sign on the back of the bus: B2.

About a month later, Barry filed a claim against Metro. Metro tracked down the bus operator, who denied hitting any vehicle. There was also no damage to the Metrobus. Unable to confirm Barry's account, a mid-level Metro manager advised against paying the claim.

But this was not just any claimant. This was Barry, 72, the Democrat known affectionately by his supporters as "Mayor for Life," a former four-term mayor who won election to the D.C. Council in 1992 after serving six months in prison for a misdemeanor drug conviction. For three years, he has served on the Metro board, which sets policy for the agency, the region's largest transit provider.

So when his accident claim was brought to the attention of Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. last year, Catoe decided to make an exception.

"We couldn't prove it one way or the other," Catoe said in a recent interview. "The reality is, he's a member of the board of directors.

"In my judgment, I did not feel that he would have lied about such a small claim," Catoe said. "I believed he was truthful, and I made the decision to pay him."

On Aug. 17, Metro cut Barry a check for $3,227.40, according to Metro records provided to The Washington Post in response to a public information request.

Metro sent the check by courier to Barry's council office. The accompanying letter read that Metro "has been unable to confirm the particulars of your allegation that a Metrobus caused the occurrence and your damages. Nevertheless, in recognition of your public position and your commitment to the public interest, [Metro] has determined that it is appropriate to accept your demand for full settlement."

Barry said he did not request special treatment and is indignant at the suggestion.

"I think it was a valid claim on its face," he said in an interview. Metro is "implying the only reason they paid it is because I'm a board member," he said. "I resent that."

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