D.C. Councilman Marion Barry's use of government personnel and equipment to smear a political opponent has earned him a rebuke from the panel's leader.
Just hours after Barry issued a press release that hammered Ward 8 Council candidate Natalie Williams, Chairman Kwame Brown scolded Barry in a letter, saying the lawmaker had committed "a potential violation" of the Council's rules.
"Under the Council's Code of Official Conduct," Brown tells the former mayor, "employees are prohibited from using 'government resources to support or oppose any candidate for elected office.'"
Barry's press release criticized Williams, his former spokeswoman, for her opposition to a proposed shelter for homeless women. As recently as September, Barry backed Williams's candidacy to become president of the Ward 8 Democrats, according to City Paper. Now he claims she knows little about the ward because she hasn't lived there long, and he chides her knowledge of municipal affairs, saying "Ms. Williams apparently does not know city law which allows the transition house to be on Good Hope Road as a matter of right."
Brown's letter, which was obtained by NewsChannel 8, says Barry's press release "appears to have violated (Council rules) because it was sent using a government email account, and plainly refers to a candidate for elected office..."
Barry's release lists staffer Joyce Clements-Smith as contact, prompting Brown to remind the Ward 8 councilman that "Council employees are not permitted to work on campaign-related activities while on duty, using their official titles, or using government property."
Clements-Smith did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and Barry's office is closed until next week.
Brown's quick response to the Barry attack on Williams may flow from a desire to boost the public's perception of the Council at a time when polls show the panel's image has been battered.
Williams said, "I applaud the chairman for moving so swiftly on this matter. Clearly Councilman Barry's press release was personal in nature, untruthful and unlawful. (He) knew that by using his government resources, this was unethical."