A week before D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) plans to throw a big reception as part of the Congressional Black Caucus weekend celebration, his office is trying to quash rumors of a political dust-up concerning the funding of the event.
The mayor's office solicited money from local businesses to pay for the reception Wednesday for more than 500 guests at the Washington Court Hotel on Capitol Hill. John B. Clyburn, a management consultant and longtime associate of former mayor Marion Barry's, chipped in $2,500.
The mayor's office apparently said thanks, but no thanks, and the money was returned. Before long, D.C. workers and community activists across town were whispering that Williams didn't want to accept money from Clyburn, who in 1990 was acquitted of federal bribery and conspiracy charges involving the awarding of about $2 million in contracts from the D.C. Department of Human Services.
It so happens that Clyburn also is the brother of Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), who is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
When asked about the return of John Clyburn's contribution, Max Brown, the mayor's legal counsel and liaison to the community, referred questions to Ron Magnus, one of the mayor's deputies in the Office of Intergovernmental Relations.
Magnus said that although Clyburn's check was the only one returned, there is a simple explanation for that.
"It was returned because we had enough money to do the event," he said. "We had more than we could use."
Magnus, a former Ward 5 coordinator for Williams's campaign, said that when Clyburn's check arrived, he already had raised the $14,000 needed to pay for the event.
While Clyburn's contribution was the only one returned, one business was told not to send any money because the mayor's office had enough, Magnus said.
"We have spoken with the congressman, with his staff, and John's going to be part of the reception," Magnus said. "He was invited. He's on our mailing list."
Magnus said the mayor welcomes the participation of John Clyburn at the reception to honor his brother for his legislative efforts on the Hill.
"The return of the money was based on the fact that we had already raised enough," Magnus said. "We're not trying to stockpile, just raise enough. Everything is fine. Both men are going to be there."
Neither of the Clyburns could be reached for comment.
Taking Scores From Bad to Worse
As if the District's scores on the Scholastic Assessment Test weren't dismal enough--results announced last week showed D.C. public school students scoring about 200 points below the national average--the city schools' Web site says they're even worse.
The Web site (www.k12.dc.us) for months has listed 1998 SAT scores as 692.3 out of a possible 1600--350.6 points on the verbal portion of the college entrance exam, and 341.7 points on the math portion.
But those figures are more than 100 points lower than the actual 1998 scores: 410 verbal, 400 math. Not stellar by any measure, but better than what's posted for last year.
Superintendent Arlene Ackerman sounded concerned about the error when informed by a reporter last week after the 1999 scores were announced by the College Board, and she promised to look into it. [The average verbal scores rose six points, while math scores dropped three points. See related story on the front page of the District Weekly].
But a week later, the posted scores for 1998 were still wrong, and the 1999 scores had not been posted.
When Will They Make a Move? While much of Washington is focusing on the first family's newest digs in New York, a few political observers in the District are wondering when the city's newest power couple is going to abandon its Silver Spring home for the city.
While it's true that Sherryl Hobbs Newman, the head of the Department of Motor Vehicles, and her husband, Robert P. Newman, the recently named director of Parks and Recreation, have not moved to the District, they are looking for a new home, she said.
Sherryl Newman, who was the mayor's director of citywide customer service until June 24, said that unlike her current post, her former position did not require her to move to the District. Before heading customer service, she was an official with the Office of Tax and Revenue. Her husband was named to the mayor's staff in July.
Williams has D.C. residency as a requirement for his Cabinet members--unless he grants an exception for those who take positions that are deemed hard to fill. The Newmans have six months to move to the District from Silver Spring, where the couple and their two daughters have lived since 1997.
"We are looking on a consistent basis at various areas in the District," Sherryl Newman said. "We have to sell our current house, which we've only had two years. We have a Realtor. We're trying to figure out how to do the swap."
She said her daughters, ages 9 and 4, already attend private school in the District.
"I think my official deadline is sometime in December," she said. "I'd rather do it sooner than later. I don't want to drag it out anymore than I have to."