D.C. Council Member Barry Hired Girlfriend as Contractor

D.C. Council member Marion Barry's ex-girlfriend, who has accused him of stalking, interrupts a late-night news conference given by Barry spokeswoman Natalie Williams.Video by News Channel 8/WJLA-TV 7
By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 8, 2009

D.C. Council member Marion Barry hired his then-girlfriend as a city contractor two months after they began a relationship that eventually led to Barry's arrest on stalking charges, according to city records.

Barry (D-Ward 8) notified the council secretary's office in October that his office intended to hire Donna Watts-Brighthaupt as a contractor specializing in "poverty reduction strategies," according to the records reviewed by The Washington Post.

Watts-Brighthaupt has been paid $15,000, and the secretary's office has a purchase order authorizing payment of an additional $5,000, council officials said.

The money comes from Barry's taxpayer-funded budget as a council member, and some officials wonder whether it was ethical for the former mayor to put his girlfriend on the city payroll.

Last night, Barry's spokeswoman, Natalie Williams, called a highly unusual 11 p.m. news conference at the John A. Wilson Building to respond to a Washington Post story after it appeared on http://washingtonpost.com.

Williams acknowledged that Barry gave Watts-Brighthaupt the contract.

"The contract was awarded to Ms. Watts because she met the criteria for the job and the qualifications for the job," Williams said.

Barry also gave her the contract, Williams said, because the financially strapped Watts-Brighthaupt "was about to lose her house, her car, due to her inability to find employment."

Barry's representatives have tried to cast Watts-Brighthaupt as unstable and attempted to further that case at last night's news conference.

Then a woman who identified herself as Watts-Brighthaupt came running from behind a TV news truck.

"That's not true. I am Ms. Watts," she said. She then returned to her car, with news cameras in pursuit.

According to the District's conflict of interest laws, no public official should use an "official position or public office to obtain private financial gain for the public official or any member of their household, or any business with which the public official or any member of their household is associated."

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