Barry Criticized Ex-Girlfriend's Work on Contract, E-Mails Show

Marion Barry reprimanded his ex-girlfriend Donna Watts-Brighthaupt for, among other things, failing to respond to calls to her cell phone.
Marion Barry reprimanded his ex-girlfriend Donna Watts-Brighthaupt for, among other things, failing to respond to calls to her cell phone. (The Washington Post )
By Nikita Stewart and Joe Stephens
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 6, 2009

Newly released e-mails show that earlier this year, D.C. Council member Marion Barry and his staff criticized work performed by his then-girlfriend, Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, and that her ex-husband accused Barry of falsifying contract documents in an angry message.

The complaints included Watts-Brighthaupt's spelling, grammar, tendency to fall behind schedule and failure to be available during business hours. The e-mails appear to confirm that Barry (D-Ward 8) and Watts-Brighthaupt traveled together to Las Vegas and Memphis. Although the city paid for Barry's airfare, the government did not foot the bill for Watts-Brighthaupt and did not pay for a $736 spa visit at the Paris hotel during their May trip to Las Vegas, travel records show.

In an e-mail from Barry that was sent from aide Brenda Richardson's address and copied to Barry, the council member said he was so disappointed with Watts-Brighthaupt's progress that he was assigning Richardson "to outline a scheduling timeframe for the continued production of the proposal." In the Feb. 18 e-mail, Barry told Watts-Brighthaupt that he was "greatly disturbed" by a meeting they had a day earlier.

"This project is behind schedule and I was hopeful that we could adopt a new schedule," he said. "Also, this is my last discussion about the need for you to keep your cell phone on, close by, and answered particularly from 9 am -- 5 pm. There have been a number of occasions when Ms. Richardson and I tried to reach you and either you did not answer or return the call."

Watts-Brighthaupt said she could not comment specifically on the e-mails without seeing them. But she said she honored her contract. "I delivered a total product before Christmas," she said.

When told about the February e-mail in which Barry complained of a missed deadline, Watts-Brighthaupt said, "I'd like to know what the timeline was."

In previous interviews, Watts-Brighthaupt has said that Barry's actions were in retaliation for her attempts to end their personal relationship. Delonta Brighthaupt, her ex-husband, who was with her when Barry was arrested in Anacostia Park last month, backed her allegations.

A Jan. 7 e-mail to Barry accuses him of fraudulently spending taxpayer funds. The e-mail, from Delonta Brighthaupt, is full of grammatical errors and written in a stream-of-consciousness style. The message bears the subject line, "Donna knows better, and will not get caught up with your falsifying contracts!!"

The e-mail continues: "you think that a little spending and a little trip here and there will get you close to someones heart your wrong, you have been played . . . You thought that in helping with a contract inwhich you have milked tax payers of the District of Columbia funds, and making her believe that she was employed by you that she would lay down . . . when you get caught and you will, as the tax IRS scammers she wont go down with you . . . this constant thought of marriage is a dream, it will never happen . . . I will contact Mayor Fenty with the imformation of falsifying and receiving funds through lies."

In a statement, Barry dismissed Brighthaupt's allegations of falsifying contracts. "He's a person who lacks credibility and whose mission is to destroy and embarrass me and his ex-wife," he said. "No news organization, including The Washington Post, should find his comments credible and print anything from him."

Natalie Williams, Barry's spokeswoman, said other e-mails in which Barry and his staff complain about Watts-Brighthaupt's performance prove that he treated her like any other employee.

"Mr. Barry has said all along that he believes in accountability and transparency," she said. "This e-mail does nothing more than to show that Mr. Barry held Ms. Watts-Brighthaupt to the same standards as his staffers and other consultants. She received no preferential treatment."

The documents were released to The Washington Post in response to an open records request. Barry's office is the subject of multiple official investigations after his relationship with Watts-Brighthaupt became public.

On July 4, U.S. Park Police arrested Barry and charged him with stalking Watts-Brighthaupt, whom he began dating in summer 2008. The charges were dropped, but the incident drew attention to a $5,000-a-month consulting contract his council office had awarded Watts-Brighthaupt. The payments were intermittent, following the flow of their rocky relationship, which included arguments over her relationship with Delonta Brighthaupt.

In total, Watts-Brighthaupt was paid $15,000 before her contract was terminated. The initial contract shows that she was hired to address poverty issues in Ward 8 but that she ended up studying young constituents and developing a program for "emerging leaders."

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