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June 15, 2014


Dear Washingtonians:

In Marc Fisher’s review of Marion Barry’s autobiography,, Fisher lists what he calls “a quartet of pieces” that are “the essential reading on Barry”: David Resnick and Richard Avedon, “The Situationist,” The New Yorker, 1994,; Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood, Dream City: Race, Politics, and the Decline of Washington; Peter Perl, “Struggling to Find Himself; As Barry the Mayor Labors, Barry the Man Languishes, Associates Say,” The Washington Post,; and Bella Stumbo, “Barry: He Keeps DC Guessing : Media scapegoat? Target of a racist plot? Victim of his own excesses?” The Los Angeles Times, There are two more books on Barry that are as important and useful as these four pieces: Jonathan I.Z. Agronsky, Marion Barry: The Politics of Race, 1991; and Jonetta Rose Barras, The Last of the Black Emperors: The Hollow Comeback of Marion Barry in a New Age of Black Leaders, 1998. I’d say that any of these pieces comes closer to the truth about Marion Barry’s place in Washington history than Barry’s own Mayor for Life. That doesn’t say much for Barry’s self-awareness.

Gary Imhoff


The Arrogant City Council, Part 2
Dorothy Brizill,

In themail on June 4, I wrote that on Thursday, June 5, with no advance public notice, Kenyon McDuffie, chair of the council’s Government Operations Committee, held a confirmation hearing for two nominations (PR20-811 for Willie Phillips and PR20-812 for Betty Ann Kane) to the three-member Public Service Commission (PSO), which regulates utilities in the District. Especially troubling was the fact that within a week of their nominations by Mayor Gray on May 29, McDuffie held a confirmation hearing on June 5. This appeared to be an obvious attempt to put the nominations on a very fast track, with council approval likely to come prior to the council’s summer recess in July, and to quell any opposition or concern that, given adequate notice, the public may have expressed regarding the nominees. The desire to act swiftly on the two nominations was also prompted by the need to have a fully functioning three-member Public Service Commission in place by mid-July, as several important issues come before the board, including plans for the undergrounding of power lines, the sale of PEPCO to Exelon, the land swap with PEPCO in order to build a soccer stadium at Buzzards Point, replacing the District’s aging gas infrastructure, etc.

In the June 4 edition of themail, I posted excerpts of E-mail correspondence that I sent to McDuffie regarding the June 5 confirmation hearing. On June 9, four days after those E-mails, McDuffie responded with the E-mail printed below.


Reply to Dorothy Brizill
Kenyon McDuffie,

I have read your string of E-mails, and they have given me some pause. I believe that over the years we have enjoyed a cordial relationship, and I am certain that though we have not always agreed on the final decision, I have not engaged in any action to subvert any statutorily authorized ability for public comment in any of the matters that I have presided over. The suggestion that there was some malicious attempt to conceal nominations and discourage public participation is patently false. In response to your E-mails there are a few very salient points I would like to make:

1) I recommended Mr. Phillips to the Mayor because he is a young professional resident of the District, whom I know to be eminently qualified for the position. If you review his resume, which I have attached, I am not sure how anyone can sincerely describe him as having “a very limited background in public utilities.” 2) Whether Mr. Gulstone attended law school with Mr. Phillips, is a friend of Mr. Phillips, or did not know Mr. Phillips is of no moment. The Mayor vetted Mr. Phillips and determined that Mr. Phillips is qualified for the position. If you have any questions regarding the Mayor’s vetting process, which to my understanding took several months, you should direct those questions to the Mayor’s office. 3) As you know, DC Code Section 38-801 governs the eligibility of members of the Public Service Commission. To be eligible for the office a person: a) Must be a bona fide District resident for the preceding three years; b) Must not, for the preceding year, have been directly or indirectly interested in any public utility or other entity appearing before the Commission or in any stock, bond, mortgage, security, or contract of any public utility or entity, except for stocks that are a part of a publicly listed mutual fund other than a utility focused mutual fund; c) Must not, for the preceding five years, have personally served as an officer, director, owner, manager, partner, or legal representative of any public utility, affiliate, or direct competitor of a public utility. 4) Further, DC Code 38-801 provides that a Commissioner is “appointed by the Mayor with the advice and consent of the Council.” There is no requirement that the Council conduct a roundtable. 5) In the event that a committee decides to conduct a roundtable on a confirmation resolution, Article V of the Council Rules for Council Period 20 governs the authority and procedure to call such roundtables. Specifically: “(c) Unless a hearing is required by law or regulation, a committee may hold a roundtable on any matter relating to the affairs of the District that is properly within the committee’s jurisdiction as provided in [the] Rules. . . Committee is not required to meet the notice requirements of section 421 to hold a roundtable. (d) A notice of a hearing or roundtable shall be filed with the Secretary.” 6) I encourage you to submit your comments on the nominees for consideration by the committee and for inclusion in the report. If you would like to comment on either of the Mayor’s nominees, the record will remain open until June 15, 2014, at 11:59 p.m. Please feel free to E-mail your comments / statement to Mr. Ronan Gulstone.

My door remains open if you would like to discuss this matter any further.


Responding to Councilmember McDuffie
Dorothy Brizill,

Noteworthy in Councilmember McDuffie’s E-mail are his troublng tone and his obvious anger that anyone would dare suggest that he engaged in an attempt “to conceal nominations and discourage public participation.” But that is exactly what he did. In paragraph one of his E-mail, he brags that he recommended Willie Phillips to the mayor as a member of the PSC, and in paragraph two he writes that that was several months ago. But in no time during that period did McDuffie ever inform any citizens, consumer advocates, or Ward 5 constituents of Mr. Phillips’ pending PSC appointment or of the pending confirmation hearing on June 5 for both Betty Ann Kane and Phillips.

Over the past few months, PEPCO has privately been touting the close relationship it has been able to develop with McDuffie, whose committee has oversight over the Public Service Commission and the Office of the Peoples Counsel. Perhaps symbolic of this close relationship is the thousands of dollars in campaign contributions McDuffie’s 2014 primary campaign received from PEPCO and virtually every senior corporate executive at PEPCO Holding, Inc. Of special note, each of the executives’ checks is written for the maximum legal amount of $500 under the District’s campaign finance law; all of the checks, with one exception, are dated February 25, 2014, and all, with two exceptions, come from non-DC residents. In his E-mail, McDuffie essentially confirms that Phillips’ nomination to the PSC came about because he was a Howard University Law School classmate and friend of Ronan Gulstone, staff director of McDuffie’s Government Operations Committee. Phillips is currently an attorney at the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a nonprofit corporation established by the electric utility industry to “promote the reliability and adequacy of bulk power transmission in the electronic utility systems of North America." Prior to joining NERC in 2010, Phillips worked for two law firms as an “Energy Associate” who “advised electric and gas utilities on regulatory, transactional policy and litigation matters.” Given his history as an attorney who represented the interests of utility companies, will Phillips be a fair, disinterested, and objective judge of cases pitting the interests of utilities against those of consumers and the general public? The public has been given no opportunity to weigh in on Phillips’ nomination and to test and question his ability to be objective.

Finally, the most disconcerting comments by McDuffie are contained in paragraphs 2 and 4 of his E-mail. In paragraph 2, he expresses confidence that “the Mayor vetted Phillips” and that “the Mayor’s vetting process” took several months. Perhaps Mr. McDuffie doesn’t recall the various appointments that the Gray administration has had to rescind because of failures in the vetting process, including Sulaimon Brown’s appointment to the Department of Health Case Finance, Andrea Pringles’ selection as Deputy Chief of Staff in the Executive Office of the Mayor, and Robert Mallett’s nomination as Chair of the Board of Elections. McDuffie writes in paragraph 4 that “there is no requirement that the council conduct a roundtable” on nominations. That may be factually accurate, but it fails to acknowledge that for at least the past twenty years the council held public hearings for all nominees to the Public Service Commission. Moreover, council records indicate that an average of 34.57 days elapsed between the time a nomination to the PSC was introduced in the council and a public hearing was held, providing adequate time to give public notice of the hearing. In an age of open government, every councilmember should understand the need to inform and involve the public via a public hearing on critical public policy issues.



Citizens Federation Meets on Public Safety, June 24
Anne Renshaw,

The DC Federation of Citizens Associations will devote its June 24 public meeting to an analysis of the city’s public safety response by popular guest speakers Kristopher Baumann and Kenneth Lyons, representing the DC Police Union and EMS labor organization respectively. Kristopher Baumann, eight-year chairman of the DC Police Union, is the current chair of its Legal and Political Affairs Committee. Kenneth Lyons is president of the union that speaks for the city’s emergency medical services workforce. Both union officials will address continuing public safety concerns confronting not only DC citizens, but MPD and EMS personnel as well. Delroy Burton, DC Police Union Chairman, will also be in attendance.

The Citizens Federation’s Assembly, which is open to the public, will be held at One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, NW, 11th Floor South (Room 1114) from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Presentations, to include audience Q&A, will begin at 6:40 p.m., following opening announcements.


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