D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5) asked a judge yesterday to settle a dispute with Chairman Linda W. Cropp over a committee hearing on the city's baseball stadium deal.
Cropp decided last week that the Government Operations Committee lacked jurisdiction over baseball issues and that a scheduled hearing would not be part of the council's official record. Orange stressed that the committee, which he chairs, has oversight of the mayor's office, which is handling the stadium project.
When Orange began his hearing yesterday, the lights were on in the council chamber and the nameplate said "Mr. Orange," but there was no working microphone, no TV cameras, no other council members and no witnesses from the executive branch. Orange also complained that the heat was off.
After the meeting, Orange filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court against Cropp and acting council secretary Ira Stohlman. In the lawsuit, Orange maintains that Cropp's decision, in effect, stopped the hearing and "is an illegal attempt to thwart the lawful efforts of the Plaintiff and the committee that he chairs" and is an "abuse of power."
Orange is asking a judge to rule that Cropp lacks the legal authority to stop the hearing and that the committee has the authority to make inquiries "of any nature" to the offices of the mayor, city administrator and property management. He is also asking the court to prevent Cropp from stopping a future hearing on the stadium deal.
Cropp called Orange's lawsuit "bizarre behavior'' and said council rules permit contesting the chairman's rulings. She said she could not recall another time when a D.C. Council member sued another or contested a parliamentary ruling in court. Cropp said she plans to ask the court to dismiss Orange's lawsuit.
Orange and Cropp, both candidates for the Democratic mayoral nomination, have clashed over which committees oversee the baseball stadium deal. Cropp has said that all baseball issues should go to the council's economic development and finance and revenue panels.
Yesterday, about a dozen opponents of the stadium's project-labor agreement, a handful of reporters and businessman Franklin L. Haney, who wants to buy the Washington Nationals, attended Orange's committee meeting. Haney talked about his bid, but he had to speak up because his microphone was off.
"Obviously, we cannot proceed without any of the apparatus,'' Orange said. "Thanks for coming out today, and stay tuned.''