Following years of suspect and uncouth behavior, former Washington mayor and Councilmember Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) has finally been rebuked by the D.C. Council. The council voted Tuesday, March 2, to censure Barry, as well as relieve him of his committee chairman duties. While those are the correct first steps to deal with Barry, anything short of a full removal from the council will let him off too easily.
Barry’s saga is a classic study of a corrupt, sleazy politician who is unfit to represent constituents in any city, much less our nation’s capital. In a 1990 sting operation, then-Mayor Barry was caught on camera possessing and using crack cocaine. He was subsequently charged and tried in a bruising court battle that indelibly tarnished his reputation. Refusing to bow out, though, he obstinately ran again for the D.C. Council and shockingly reclaimed the mayoralty in 1994.
The story, of course, gets better. As recently as 2005, Mr. Barry tested positive for both marijuana and cocaine use. Moreover, he did not file an Internal Revenue Service form on time in 2007, during his tenure on the council. Barry is currently on probation for failing to file tax returns from 1999 to 2004.
The scandal du jour arose after a D.C. lawyer uncovered evidence that Barry awarded a $15,000 contract to a former girlfriend and then took a personal cut of the contract. As an interesting aside, it should be noted that the same former girlfriend at one point brought a charge of stalking against Barry.
The fact that Barry apparently felt no qualms about fleecing taxpayers to line his own pockets at a time when many Americans are hurting demonstrates a stunning disregard for the public’s interests. Although a criminal investigation is still pending, the evidence against him seems pretty damning.
What sets this scandal apart from Barry’s previous offenses is its public nature. In the past, Barry broke the law on a private level. In fooling around with taxpayer money, however, Barry has betrayed the Ward 8 constituents he was elected to advocate for and protect. If the council wants to retain credibility, it ought to make every effort to impeach Barry. Until then, D.C. voters cannot be expected to have full confidence or trust in their council. We sincerely hope that Barry has made his last unsavory appearance on the political stage.
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