AMONG THE PEOPLE D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) thanks in his recently released autobiography is one of his council aides, LaToya Foster. The acknowledgments chapter of “Mayor for Life” notes the “nights, weekends, and many long hours of assistance” she spent on the book. That much of that time apparently came courtesy of D.C. taxpayers shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering the way Mr. Barry has conducted his long career. We hope, though, that there will be appropriate scrutiny of his latest excesses by city ethics officials.
Ms. Foster’s contributions to the former mayor’s book project were detailed by the Washington City Paper’s LooseLips columnist Will Sommer. Using calendar entries and e-mails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr. Sommer presents a convincing case that Ms. Foster, who earns $69,010 as Mr. Barry’s council spokeswoman, worked on the memoir on government time. This included attending meetings and preparing promotional material.
Council ethics rules bar staffers from using the business day for “purposes other than official business or government-approved or sponsored activities.” Council members, who are allowed to have second jobs, are prohibited from asking their staff to work on non-council projects during government time.
Whether this arrangement was in violation of those rules is a matter for the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, and we urge it to investigate. Mr. Barry has long considered himself immune to the rules that guide the actions of public officials — as his history of smoking crack cocaine, not filing taxes, steering city contracts to an ex-girlfriend and taking money from a city contractor, among other offenses, richly shows. Over the weekend, Mr. Barry was hospitalized after a car crash he reportedly caused by driving the wrong way on Pennsylvania Avenue SE. But it’s important he be held accountable in the new ethics case, as in the others.