WASHINGTON -- Federal authorities launched an investigation into a contract D.C. Councilman Marion Barry gave to a girlfriend, the Washington Examiner reported.
The preliminary probe examines information from the media's accounts about Barry's contracts, a source said. It also will look at allegations that Barry steered city grant money to nonprofit organizations apparently run by his staff member.
The FBI and the U.S. Justice Department are involved, the Examiner reported.
Fred Cooke, Barry's attorney, told the Washington Post he was not aware of the federal investigation.
The D.C. inspector general also is investigating the allegations, and the D.C. Council already has tapped attorney Robert Bennett, a former federal prosecutor, to investigate Barry. Bennett has authority to issue subpoenas and send any evidence he finds of criminal activity to federal prosecutors. He also will consider whether the council needs ethics reforms, the Examiner reported.
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, Donna 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, but is now estranged from him in part because of her continuing relationship with her ex-husband. 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.