“MY CHARACTER and integrity remain intact,” said D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) after being sanctioned by ethics officials. It’s hard to disagree with the former mayor considering how his latest infraction — taking illegal gifts from city contractors — is in keeping with a career spotted with unseemly behavior, ethical transgressions and outright violations of the law.
Mr. Barry may be well past shame, but kudos to the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability for labeling his conduct unacceptable and insisting that he pay a price. Ethics officials have set an example for the D.C. Council to follow as it determines what, if any, additional punishments should be given to Mr. Barry.
A settlement approved June 11 by the board censures and fines Mr. Barry $13,600 for violating the District’s code of conduct in accepting gifts — including cash — totaling $6,800 from two companies that do business with the government. He was also cited for not disclosing the gifts to the council chairman and not recusing himself from council action on matters involving the companies. The gifts came to light in May when Mr. Barry, on the advice of his attorney, listed them on his financial disclosure report filed with the ethics board. The board found no evidence to counter Mr. Barry’s statement that there was no understanding or agreement in exchange for the gifts. The board, The Post’s Mike DeBonis reported, has referred the matter to outside authorities, including the U.S. attorney, to determine whether the gift-givers violated ethics laws.
The fine (which the notoriously cash-strapped Mr. Barry isn’t allowed to satisfy with funds from prohibited sources) and censure are the most serious actions taken by the board. It’s been only a year since its members were sworn into office, but it has established clear guidelines, conducted careful investigations and has been willing to call out officials — such as Mr. Barry and his D.C. Council colleaguesJim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large) — when they cross the line. Those are all hopeful signs for setting a new tone of government conduct.