Ethics Dunces: Residents of Ward 8, District of Columbia

Here’s an all-too-brief synopsis of the political career of Marion Barry, City Councilman for Ward 8 in the District of Columbia

  • As Mayor of Washington, D.C. from 1979- 1991, he appointed unqualified and corrupt cronies to key positions, many of whom, under his watch, either embezzled government funds or otherwise lined their own pockets. Barry set the standard by spending lavishly on his own travel and amenities while keeping the actual expenditures secret. His multiple infidelities to his wife and abuse of cocaine and alcohol was widely publicized. He hired loyal supporters for jobs they either could not or did not do, swelling the D.C. budget and lowering service to abyssal levels. Wards that did not vote his way when he came up for election didn’t get their streets plowed. Contracts were awarded to Barry’s political connections rather than by such quaint criteria as cost-effectiveness and demonstrated  ability to perform. Each year of his tenure, the budget deficit got worse, crime and violence rose, and Barry’s addictions and illegal drug use became more obvious. Finally, he was caught on camera smoking crack, arrested, and forced to resign. The accumulated charges against him, including more than one drug possession charge and multiple counts of perjury still didn’t stick, because Barry Squad jurors hung the jury with absurd claims that the mayor was the victim of a “racist conspiracy.”
  • After a rap-on-the-wrists 6 month stay in Federal prison, Barry emerged a martyred hero and was soon elected mayor again. His mis-management of the city’s budget crisis, largely seeded by the corruption, graft and incompetence of his earlier decade as mayor, resulted in the Clinton Administration and Congress stepping is and stripping him of most of his authority. He did not run for re-election, but the culture of corruption he nurtured in the D.C. government has been on display ever since.
  • Barry then was overwhelmingly elected to the D.C. City Council for Ward 8 in 2004 with 95% of the vote.
  • Since then, he has tested positive for both cocaine and marijuana, been arrested twice for driving with a suspended license, and once for a suspected DUI. He has repeatedly failed to file his income tax, barely escaping jail despite violating his probation. He admitted to wiring a government consulting job for an ex-girlfriend who owed him money. She plagiarized the major report she had been hired to prepare, and used her compensation to pay back Barry. His explanation was that he had used “poor judgment” but that there was no law against nepotism in D.C., so he did nothing unethical. (Now there is such a law.) Meanwhile, Barry was arrested for stalking the ex-girlfriend.
  • On March 2, 2010, the Council of the District of Columbia voted 12–0 in favor of stripping Barry of all committee assignments, ending his chair of the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development, and removing him from the Committee on Finance and Revenue.

Yesterday, Marion Barry, 76 years old, stood for re-election as City Councilman for Ward 8.

He received 75% of the vote.


12 thoughts on “Ethics Dunces: Residents of Ward 8, District of Columbia

    • It’s an old story. He delivers the goods to Ward 8, lots of residents owe him for employing their family members in phony jobs when he was mayor. It’s like Daley’s Chicago or any corrupt city…voters don’t care about character, just the results the can see, ignoring all the damage corrupt politicians do while they are putting turkeys on the porch.
      Why did a plurality of Americans vote for Bill Clinton in 1996? There were so many scandals the media couldn’t cover them all. He was a charmer, though! And so is Marion.

  1. I think you need to go after more ambiguous and less obvious ethics issues. Marion Berry is such an acknowledged piece of shit, it’s like kicking a dead dog. Is there anyone in the world, other than members of his district who approve of him?

    More thought-provoking are moral paradoxes and tough choices, e.g. fish on an endangered species list versus indigenous people’s tradition of catching as many of those fish as they like – now that’s not shooting fish in a barrel.

    Or a congressman who votes with his personal conscience on an issue, which happens to be at odds with the majority of his constituents.

    • There have been 2,546 posts on this blog in 2.5 years, and .1 per cent have involved Marion Barry. The post was about his Ward re-electing an obvious crook, scofflaw and scoundrel with 75% of the vote, and I do find that remarkable, and instructive. And yes, voters continue to ignore ethics over narrow interests, and that’s a continuing theme here.

      This blog is driven by current events and emerging issues. The timeless issues all come up in context of these eventually—in another 2.5 years, there will be another 2,500 posts or so. Maybe your pet issues will come up. The two you mention, by the way, are not very productive to blather about. An elected representative is supposed to use his or her talents and best judgment to do what he or she believes in in the best interest of constituents and the nation at large. Where personal conscience is involved, it depends on the issue and the context. A Congressman isn’t like lawyer, whose personal views don’t matter. Personal conscience is part of what the public elects, which is why a candidate shouldn’t hide his or her true beliefs. The job is a balance requiring judgement and integrity, and there is no one “right” way to do it…just a lot of wrong ways.

      As for the fish hypo…indigenous people should never be prohibited from hunting or fishing traditional food, which is why the Inuits are exempt from whaling bans.

      I encourage suggestion, but please don’t tell me what to write about. You are welcome to start your own blog.

  2. Oh for Pete’s sake! Ward 8 is just as corrupt as their mayor.When a crook is up for trial he gets a jury that isn’t biased against him. The same rule should apply to jurists who might be biased for him.

  3. Does the DC press, or anyone active in DC politics, drop any hint as to who Ward 8’s next champion will be or might be, after Barry? I’m beginning to suspect that ward is going to re-elect him posthumously in perpetuity.

  4. Wow – you mean is not the way it is supposed to be run? There are a lot of similarities with the daily shenanigans that occur here with our Mayor, City Council and City Manager. When I first came here I thought I had stepped into la la land and then just accepted it as the way things are done in the deep South. I am gobsmacked to learn that this kind of city politics might be considered illegal, unethical and down right reprehensible. Who knew?

  5. “We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops,” Barry said on Tuesday night, according to video posted by WRC-TV/NBC4. “They ought to go. I’m going to say that right now. But we need African-American businesspeople to be able to take their places, too.”

    -Marion Barry

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