Ex-Girlfriend In Barry Case Seeks Lawyer

Donna Watts-Brighthaupt says she still hopes to head Emerging Leaders of Ward 8, a program ex-boyfriend Marion Barry hired her to develop.
Donna Watts-Brighthaupt says she still hopes to head Emerging Leaders of Ward 8, a program ex-boyfriend Marion Barry hired her to develop. (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)
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By Tim Craig and Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is there a lawyer in the house?

Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, the woman at the center of the ethical questions swirling around D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), said that federal investigators had not approached her as part of their preliminary inquiry into the council member. But Watts-Brighthaupt, Barry's ex-girlfriend who was awarded a city contract last year, pledged she would cooperate with authorities.

First, she needs a lawyer who can represent her for free.

"I don't have a lawyer, and I can't afford one," she said. "I heard other people are being represented pro bono. I need a lawyer pro bono."

Watts-Brighthaupt said she spoke with Barry two weeks ago and hopes one day to head the Emerging Leaders of Ward 8 program, which Barry hired her to develop and implement. "I wouldn't get much done in Ward 8 without working through him," she said in an e-mail. "To launch the program, I'll have to work with him. Being angry wouldn't accomplish anything for Ward 8."

She said lawyers who have a "vendetta" against the council member need not apply.

"I would like the [investigation] to be ethical and fair," she said.

Federal authorities are deciding whether to launch a formal investigation into Barry's use of taxpayer money to hire Watts-Brighthaupt as a $5,000-a-month contractor and to award nearly $1 million in grants to nonprofit groups in Ward 8 before some of the groups were legally incorporated.

The scrutiny began when Barry was arrested July 4 in Anacostia Park after Watts-Brighthaupt flagged down U.S. Park Police officers and told them that the council member was "bothering" her. Barry was charged with misdemeanor stalking, but the U.S. attorney's office later dropped the charge.

A Likely Candidate

The Draft Clark Ray for D.C. Council At-Large Committee announced this week that 30 residents and community leaders are joining the committee.

Ray, the former director of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation who was fired in April by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), appears likely to challenge council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) in next year's Democratic primary.

Ray's newest supporters include Joel Lawson, former president of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, and Spence Spencer, president of the Palisades Citizens Association.

Principals Shown the Exit

Teacher blogs and school e-mail group lists were buzzing for weeks about the anticipated replacement of numerous principals in D.C. public schools. As of Friday, Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's office had confirmed that school's out permanently for 25 principals.

This year's turnover is not quite as heavy as last year's, when Rhee made changes at 49 schools, recruiting "proven instructional leaders" to "replace principals who were unable to increase student performance," she told a Senate subcommittee last week.

Jennifer Calloway, Rhee's spokeswoman, said that this year's departures "could be the result of retirement, resignation or non-reappointment" but that personnel rules barred her from providing specifics. In any event, since Rhee became chancellor in 2007, roughly half of the principals' posts in the public schools have changed hands.

Some of the changes were essentially a done deal months ago. Anacostia, Dunbar and Coolidge high schools will be run by outside management groups that chose their own leaders.

Other transitions have kicked up controversy in communities, especially the dismissal of Luke C. Moore Academy's longtime principal Reginald C. Elliott. The high school, targeted at students who have dropped out or been through the judicial system, has extremely low attendance and graduation rates. But Elliott's supporters have lobbied the D.C. Council on his behalf.

Gloria Tisdale, a Moore assistant principal who was dismissed along with Elliott, said Elliott was undermined by a lack of support from Rhee and central office administrators.

In a letter last week to council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), Tisdale said that "neither [Rhee] nor her staff knows or cares about the scope of what we do at the school or our students' personal and interpersonal challenges."

"Her concerns," Tisdale said of Rhee, "are basically the data regarding the school and not addressing the souls and their needs."

The replacements, chosen by Rhee but also screened and interviewed by committees of parents and teachers, include several highly regarded assistant principals. At least two are products of New Leaders for New Schools, a nonprofit training program that attracts and mentors new urban school principals.

Staff writer Nikita Stewart contributed to this report.

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