Top aides to D.C. Mayor Marion Barry claimed yesterday that they cannot be held liable for their official government actions and asked a D.C. Superior Court judge to dismiss a $12 million damage suit against them that contests their handling of the city's daily numbers contract.
"The exercise of judgment and discretion by officials of the District of Columbia government discharging their official duties cannot be made the basis for civil liability and damages, even if the exercise of judgment and discretion was grounded upon a mistake of law or fact," city lawyers for the officials said in their request for a dismissal of the case.
The suit was brought by Lottery Technology Enterprises, the firm selected by the D.C. Lottery Board to operate the daily numbers game. The board, under pressure from Barry and his aides, reversed course last week, rejected the bids offered by Lottery Technology and two other companies and resolicited new bids.
In its suit, Lottery Technology claims that deputy mayors Ivanhoe Donaldson, Elijah Rogers and Alphonse G. Hill, Corporation Counsel Judith W. Rogers and one of Hill's aides, William Y. Kao, conspired to to get the contract for Columbia Gaming Services Inc., one of the losing bidders and a defendant in the suit. Lottery Technology claimed that the officials "intentionally, wilfully, maliciously and unlawfully" pressured the lottery agency to rescind its selection and resolicit bids.
Lottery Technology's lawyers had planned to start taking out-of-court testimony in the case this afternoon, but the city asked for a ruling first on its dismissal request and a hearing was scheduled for this morning.
Lottery Technology attorneys asked that Rogers be blocked from representing the lottery board in the new bid solicitation and that the city officials be enjoined "from communicating with and threatening" lottery board members . . . "except at public meetings."
In their response, the city lawyers said that Rogers has the authority under D.C. law to conduct "all law business" of the city. Moreover, the city lawyers said that the officials being sued "all have official duties which not only authorize them to communicate with the District of Columbia agencies, including the board, but also require them to do so when their communications are necessary, in their discretion, to carry out the laws of the District of Columbia."
The city's lawyers described the Lottery Technology suit as a "blunderbuss attack on the contracting process" and said that it contained "outrageous falsehoods."