Former Washington D.C. mayor and current councilman Marion Barry is no stranger to controversy, from his crack smoking to racist remarks and numerous other transgressions and gaffes. Now it appears that even his recent biography, “Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr.,” may have been written unethically.
The Washington Post reports that one of Barry’s aides, Latoya Fosler, who is acknowledged as having dedicated “nights, weekends and many long hours of assistance” to the book, may have been doing so on the taxpayer dime.
The Post’s Editorial Board writes:
Ms. Foster’s contributions to the former mayor’s book project were detailed by the Washington City Paper’s LooseLips columnist Will Sommer. Using calendar entries and e-mails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr. Sommer presents a convincing case that Ms. Foster, who earns $69,010 as Mr. Barry’s council spokeswoman, worked on the memoir on government time. This included attending meetings and preparing promotional material.
This may indicate that the writing of Barry’s biography ran afoul of Washington D.C.’s rules on ethics:
Council ethics rules bar staffers from using the business day for “purposes other than official business or government-approved or sponsored activities.” Council members, who are allowed to have second jobs, are prohibited from asking their staff to work on non-council projects during government time.
The Post’s Editorial Board concludes their piece arguing that Barry should be investigated:
Whether this arrangement was in violation of those [D.C. ethics] rules is a matter for the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, and we urge it to investigate. Mr. Barry has long considered himself immune to the rules that guide the actions of public officials — as his history of smoking crack cocaine, not filing taxes, steering city contracts to an ex-girlfriend and taking money from a city contractor, among other offenses, richly shows. Over the weekend, Mr. Barry was hospitalized after a car crash he reportedly caused by driving the wrong way on Pennsylvania Avenue SE. But it’s important he be held accountable in the new ethics case, as in the others.
To be fair, as the LooseLips column from which the Post gleaned details of Barry’s book notes:
As Barry’s indiscretions go, this is hardly steering city money to a girlfriend (which earned him a censure from the Council in 2010) or taking money from a city contractor in a strip-club parking lot (which helped earn him the same punishment last year).
While it’s nice of Foster to help her boss’s literary career—albeit for a book that compares snorting cocaine to an orgasm—she still helped make him money on Council time.
…Give Foster credit for one thing, though, in her use of Council resources to work on the book: transparency! By using her government email account, Foster gave LL [LooseLips] a clear glimpse into the development of the memoir.