Marion Barry Apologizes

Barry still denies any legal wrongdoing

By Tom Sherwood and Jim Iovino
|  Tuesday, Feb 23, 2010  |  Updated 3:00 PM EDT
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Marion Barry Apologizes

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Former Mayor Marion Barry arrives for the 25th birthday party celebration of Gilbert Arenas hosted by Diddy at Club Love on Jan. 5, 2007.

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Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry on Tuesday denied any legal wrongdoing, but admitted his city council contracting "was a violation of ... good and sound judgment."

"I didn't use good judgment in recommending a contract to a person whom I was involved with personally," Barry said.

He said he should have ended his stormy relationship with Donna Watts-Brighthaupt or ended the contract.

"I know my actions, my lack of sound judgment ... led to embarrassment to the city and put political pressure on my colleagues," Barry said. " Truly apologize ... I am truly sorry. I intend to work as hard as I can to help repair the damage."

Barry's personal services contract with Watts-Brighthaupt may have violated ethical and legal standards, according to a report released last Tuesday.

"Special Counsel found that approval of the personal services contract to Donna Watts-Brighthaupt was not ... in accordance with D.C. law or council rules," according to the report by independent investigator Robert Bennett, a former federal prosecutor regarded as one of the best defense attorneys in the country.

The special counsel's report also said that Barry attempted to impede the investigation by refusing to answer questions, withholding information and telling a witness to withhold documents. The Washington City Paper reported that according to Watts-Brighthaupt's testimony, Barry told her not to let authorities have her bank statements. 

Watts reported in her deposition how Barry put the situation to her: "You might think you don't have anything to hide. You don't know what they will find that will hurt you. I'm not worried about it. I'm not going to get hurt. It's going to be you and I can't help you." Just to clarify: That quote is Watts recounting how Barry described to her the situation with the special counsel investigation.

She also told the special counsel Barry advised her to say she couldn't remember if she didn't remember something verbatim, the City Paper reported.

In the report, Bennett said authorities responsible for approving such contracts were misled about its purpose and that "Barry did not disclose his financial, personal and sexual relationships with Ms. Brighthaupt."

Barry also forced Watts-Brighthaupt to turn over portions of the contract payments to him, according to the report. Watts-Brighthaupt was paid a total of $15,000. According to Bennett's report, Barry initially wanted to hire her for a project that council officials deemed too political. The contract was changed, but Bennett said Watts-Brighthaupt carried out the original proposal.

Bennett recommended that Barry's actions be referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office for a full investigation.

No other council members were named in the report.

The contract flap sprouted from Barry's July 4 arrest on stalking charges. According to the Park Police report, the driver of a 1999 BMW was stopped for driving erratically on the wrong side of the road. At that point, as the officer approached the car, Barry's ex-girlfriend, Watts-Brighthaupt, ran up and complained about Barry bothering her, which ultimately led to his stalking arrest.

Watts-Brighthaupt was romantically linked to Barry for several months. After Barry's arrest, she said stalking probably isn't the proper term since she had voluntarily agreed to go to Rehoboth Beach, Del., with him earlier in the day. That trip ended when she changed her mind when they stopped for lunch in Annapolis.

The U.S. Attorney's Office dropped the charge a few days later, saying there wasn't enough evidence to try him for stalking, but that wild week in the life of the Mayor for Life included revelations that Barry had given Watts-Brighthaupt a $5,000-per-month contract paid out of taxpayer funds.

The Washington City Paper later reported about $1 million in earmarks Barry got for groups in Ward 8. Councilwoman Mary Cheh has called for a moratorium on earmarks.

According to the report released last Tuesday, Barry had 41 "earmarks" in 2009 worth $8.4 million.

The organizations to which Barry steered funds "were rife with waste and abuse," according to the report.

"Special Counsel recommends that (Barry earmarks) be the subject of a referral to the appropriate authorities, including the District of Columbia of Campaign Finance, for further investigation into possible violations of law and ethical standards," the report said.

"Special Counsel found (Barry) attempted to impede the investigation by refusing to answer material questions ... and by advising a material witness to withhold documents and information."

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