A story Sunday incorrectly reported that Marcia Griffin, who is expected to testify that she provided drugs to D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, owns a shop in the Washington Hilton Hotel. Hotel officials said Griffin has not been associated with the shop for 12 months. (Published 7/4/90)
A woman who was romantically involved with D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and has told investigators she gave drugs to Barry on several occasions is an officer in two companies that have been awarded more than $4.7 million in city contracts in the past three years, according to sources and city records.
Marcia Griffin, who is listed as a prosecution witness in Barry's drug and perjury trial and is one of several witnesses with contractual links to the District government, is identified in city incorporation records as the secretary-treasurer of Comprehensive Marketing Systems and as a member of the board of directors of Temporary Living Communities.
The two companies have been awarded several city contracts to provide "transitional" housing and shelter for homeless families. Griffin's husband, James, was a member of the mayor's 1986 finance committee and is listed as president of both companies.
The latest contract -- preliminarily approved for $2.749 million and the largest awarded by the city to provide housing for homeless families -- could be worth about $15 million over the next five years if the city renews the award as outlined in the contract. There is no indication in city records made available publicly that Barry was involved directly in the award process in any of the contracts.
According to a log of phone calls made after hours and on weekends to the mayor's command center introduced at the trial, Griffin left messages for Barry at least seven times during an 11-month period. On Nov. 8, 1988, Griffin left a message for Barry asking him to call, saying: "Proposal is ready."
In addition, sources said that during a similar 15-month period, in which Griffin was romantically involved with Barry, she left 44 messages for him using the alias "Deborah Chase," from Oct. 4, 1988, to the day before Barry was arrested at the Vista Hotel on Jan. 18, 1990.
Neither Griffin nor her lawyer returned several phone calls. Her husband, James, confirmed that she had been questioned by authorities, but declined to comment about her role in the case or about his company's contracts with the city.
"I'm not going to get involved in that. Go ahead and write whatever you want," he said recently.
Griffin is one of several close Barry associates whose names have come up in the trial and who have had some contractual tie to the District government. Although Barry's charges are limited to perjury and drug possession, witnesses have painted a less-than-flattering portrait of how city business sometimes was influenced by more than rules and procedures.
Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore, a former girlfriend who said she and Barry used drugs together more than 100 times, told the jury that Barry suggested she put together a summer youth program, "Project Me," that ran for three years and cost the city more than $180,000. When Moore once rebuffed Barry's request for oral sex, Barry threatened to cut off her city contract, prosecutor Judith E. Retchin told the judge at a bench conference after defense attorney R. Kenneth Mundy objected to her line of questioning.
Charles Lewis, another key prosecution witness, said a trip made by Barry to the Virgin Islands evolved into an almost nonstop party of drug use and sexual activity. Barry was there to consult on a D.C.-Virgin Islands personnel project, a venture that eventually cost the city about $258,000. Barry told a grand jury that he worked almost around the clock and brought a briefcase of city work on a sailing trip.
Lewis also testified that Marlene Johnson, who was being paid up to $71,000 a year as a legal consultant to the mayor's office at the time and was an adviser on the project, used drugs during that trip.
Johnson, chairman of the city's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, denied the allegation. Johnson also said on her city financial disclosure form that she has a consulting contract with Metropolitan Health Associates, a firm that also was awarded a city contract to provide housing for homeless families.
Others, too, with city contracts or employed by firms with city contracts are listed as prosecution witnesses or unindicted co-conspirators:
Hassan Mohammadi, a former restaurateur who is expected to testify that he supplied cocaine to Barry regularly, was awarded a $195,000 city contract in 1989 to market lottery games. Mohammadi pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to possess cocaine.
Willie Davis, one of Barry's closest friends and a former top aide to Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington Jr., was hired as a marketing consultant by a Pittsburgh investment banking firm that won a significant share of the city's bond underwriting business last year. Moore told the jury that Davis was present in a hotel room when Barry smoked crack cocaine.
Tony Jones, also a close friend of Barry's, owns a minority consulting firm, Tonya Inc., that has received city contracts since 1981. Moore testified that she smoked crack cocaine with Barry at Jones's house several times, including one occasion where she used drugs with Barry and Jones.
Gaylord Tissueboo, a former Barry photographer, was identified by Moore as having smoked cocaine with Barry and Moore. Moore said she also was with Barry at Tissueboo's house when Barry suggested that Moore submit a bid for the summer youth program.
Lloyd N. Moore Jr., a lawyer with Leftwich, Moore and Douglas, a firm that has advised the city on legal issues, is expected to testify that he used drugs with Barry, according to sources. The two Moores are not related.
Bettye Smith, a former Barry girlfriend and former employee at W.R. Lazard and Co., once the city's top financial adviser, and Darrell Sabbs, the former head of the Mayor's Youth Leadership Institute, also have told investigators they used cocaine with Barry, according to sources.
Since Barry's arrest in January, investigators have been reviewing city records to determine whether Barry may have steered city business to associates who provided him with drugs. Shortly after he was arrested, a federal grand jury subpoenaed city records requesting information about the business dealings of eight Barry associates -- including Mohammadi, Davis, Tissueboo and Jones.
One source close to the investigation said the investigation was expected to pick up after the trial. "Let me assure you, the investigation is not dead," said the source.
Marcia Griffin, who also owns an exclusive handbag store in the Washington Hilton, has told investigators that she and Barry used what she believed was cocaine and had sex at the hotel on different occasions, according to a source. Several sources said Griffin was romantically involved with Barry.
Sources said last week that although Griffin has been offered immunity, prosecutors have not decided whether to call her as a witness because she has been less cooperative since first speaking to investigators and has since hired a lawyer.
Griffin's company, Comprehensive Marketing Systems, appears to have started providing housing for homeless families in 1987, for which it was paid $994,085 by the District. That contract was awarded by top Department of Human Services officials over the objections of a contracting officer who wrote "costs appear too excessive" and recommended that the contract be rejected. That contract was renewed the next year for a similar amount of money.
James Griffin, Marcia Griffin's husband and the president of both companies, appeared last month before a House subcommittee looking into allegations that the District has paid millions of dollars to operators of homeless shelters with political or personal ties to Barry.
Rep. Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Government Operations subcommitee, criticized the District's approval of major contracts with at least four Barry associates who provided housing for the homeless, including Griffin. Marcia Griffin's connection to the Barry case was unknown at the time of the hearing and her name was not on the contracts.
City Administrator Carol B. Thompson disputed Weiss' allegation and said in a statement that the latest round of contracts -- including the preliminary approval of a $2.749 million award to Griffin's Temporary Living Communities -- was the result of competitive bidding.
Congressional investigators described Griffin's two 45-unit apartment buildings as superior to the other for-profit housing provided by contractors, but questioned the cost. Griffin told the committee he leases the building at a monthly cost of about $400 per unit. His contract with the District pays him about $2,500 a month per unit.
In response, Griffin said that during the first year of the new contract, expenses will total $2.5 million of the $2.7 million award. As part of his agreement, Griffin said he furnishes the apartments, provides counseling to residents and pays for the upkeep of the building.
Griffin told the committee that he won the contract with "quality services" and not political influence. He said he and another relative, Theodore Griffin, were the "only two members of our family . . . associated with the shelter" and that Theodore Griffin was the only family member who received a salary from the contract.
Staff writer Sari Horwitz and staff researcher Matthew Lee contributed to this report.