Tempers flared last week at a meeting of the City Council's Committee on Public Services and Cable Television when two council members openly challenged the authority of Committee Chairwoman Betty Ann Kane (D-At large) to control the panel's agenda.
The dispute centered on how quickly the committee should act on Mayor Marion Barry's nomination of Frederick D. Dorsey, currently the principal assistant corporation counsel, to replace Brian Lederer as people's counsel.
Although mayoral nominations usually sail through the council, some council members have said privately there's a possibility Barry could be in for fight on the Dorsey nomination.
Consumer groups have criticized Barry's decision to replace Lederer, whose aggressive representation of the public at utility rate hearings has won him strong support from ratepayers.
Kane, who publicly criticized Barry for replacing Lederer, decided to hold an unusal night hearing in late October to give community groups and Dorsey a full opportunity to air their views. But that proposal did not sit well with council members Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) and John Ray (D-At large), who complained that Kane's plan would unnecessarily drag out Dorsey's nomination process.
Although the pros and cons of Dorsey's nomination didn't surface during the ensuing debate over procedure, Ray is known to support Dorsey's nomination and Winter, a Barry ally on the council, can also be expected to back him.
Winter moved to force Kane to hold a roundtable discussion on Dorsey's nomination at the committee's meeting next week.
Kane, piqued at Winter's challenge to her authority, promptly ruled Winter's motion out of order on grounds that only the committee chairman can set agendas.
"I challenge the ruling of the chair," Winter said. She added, "If we're going to be dictated to, then I don't need to be here."
Kane, her cheeks turning red, shot back: "I would have preferred you had discussed this with me ahead of time so we don't have a dictatorship."
"A majority of the committee rules," Ray interjected.
With two committee members absent, the vote was 2 to 1 in favor of Winter's motion, with Ray and Winter voting for it and Kane against. But the vote didn't end the dispute.
After the hearing, Kane insisted that Winter's motion was improper and she has gone ahead with plans for holding her public hearing on the nomination. It is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 24 in the council chambers at the District Building.
The council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a proposal introduced by council member Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3) that would permit notaries public to raise the maximum fees they charge from 50 cents to $2.
Notaries can set their own fees, including doing the work for free, as long as it does not go above the legal ceiling.
Council member William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5), who reviewed the proposal as chairman of the Goverment Operations Committee, said the 50-cent ceiling has been in effect since 1901. "It's felt the increase is appropriate in light of rising costs," Spaulding said.
Earlier this year, at the request of the mayor, the council raised the licensing fee notaries pay the city from $10 to $30 as part of an overall boost in licensing fees. A notary license is good for five years.