The Washington Post

Marion Barry censure leads to power shake-up on D.C. Council

The D.C. Council member who most forcefully opposed stripping Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) of his leadership role for accepting cash payments from city contractors would gain the most power under a proposal Monday to carve up Barry’s committee.

Council member Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large) would gain oversight of the Department of Employment Services and the city’s Workforce Investment Council, two entities with sway over hiring programs and worker protections.

The proposed shake-up was released Monday by council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and could be voted on as early as Tuesday.

It follows the 9 to 4 decision by the council in mid-September to censure Barry after he disclosed that he had accepted two gifts last year totaling $6,800 from D.C. construction companies. D.C. law prohibits gifts from government contractors.

Orange, who chairs the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, had forcefully opposed the censure, saying it amounted to double jeopardy for Barry, who had already agreed to a settlement with the city’s ethics board that included a fine of $13,600.

That sanction triggered an investigation by a special council committee, and Orange questioned whether its members were fully independent, saying two who did not have committee assignments could stand to benefit from disciplining Barry.

By sending to Orange key parts of Barry’s Workforce and Community Affairs committee, Mendelson is likely to please labor unions who wanted to keep employment issues before a council member with close ties to labor.

Also under the reorganization:

● Department of Parks and Recreation would go to the transportation committee chaired by council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3).

● Commission on Human Rights would go to the public safety committee led by council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6)

● Minority affairs groups would be overseen by government operations chair Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5).

Three staffers employed by Barry’s committee have been temporarily reassigned to the Committee of the Whole, Mendelson said. Those workers, he added, are likely to be hired by other members.

Mike Debonis contributed to this report.

Aaron Davis covers D.C. government and politics for The Post and wants to hear your story about how D.C. works — or how it doesn’t.

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