Monday, April 13, 2009

DC's Own Kwame Kilpatrick?!?

I travel around the country (and sometimes Canada) with my Day Job, which means I meet a lot of interesting people in the process. Typically, someone asks me where I live (not where I'm from, which would be NC) and to save the trouble of explaining the locale of my MD burb, I usually just say DC. One of two things then inevitably happens. Someone asks me if I've met Clinton/Bush/Obama (as if I can just walk over to 1600 Penn Ave. and kick it) or someone asks me "Hey, what's up with that Marion Barry guy?"

Like it or not, decades after the infamous "The B*tch Set Me Up!!!" incident, for many folks who've never been to The Urreah, Marion Barry is DC. Never mind the fact that The Urreah is a culturally diverse metropolitan area of over 4 Million residents, Marion Barry is more or less the guy who is the face of DC for most residents West of the Mississippi. Many people still assume he is the mayor (he's not, just a Councilman) although he hasn't been for over a decade now.

Given the current scandal brewing, I think Barry may find himself eclipsed very soon.
A former D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation manager sued the city yesterday for $5 million, saying that he was improperly fired after questioning why Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's twin sons were playing in the wrong youth basketball league.

In papers filed in D.C. Superior Court, Michael Williams, who served as the agency's athletics director for about a year, said he was terminated Feb. 23. That was 10 days after he had told his boss, Parks and Recreation Director Clark E. Ray, that he had received complaints from parents that Fenty's sons were participating in the Pee Wee basketball division for 6- to 8-year-olds. The boys were to turn 9 in early March, which meant they were supposed to be in the Pony division for 9- and 10-year-olds, the lawsuit says.

Although Ray told Williams that he was being terminated for "budget reasons," the lawsuit says, Williams and his attorney John M. Clifford say that he was fired "in retaliation for having made disclosures . . . about Defendant Fenty's abuse of authority in connection with the administration of the DPR youth basketball league."

According to the lawsuit, when Williams asked Ray how to handle the situation, Ray told him that Fenty's sons would continue to play in the younger league. Paperwork for the boys lacked birth certificates and parent signatures and read "Mayor's son," the lawsuit says.

Williams asked an agency employee to contact Fenty, who was abroad, but the employee reported receiving a dismissive e-mail from the mayor, the suit says.

The Department of Parks and Recreation is projected to lose 55 employees next year under Fenty's proposed budget. But Williams said that no one else was fired when he was, "as a cost-cutting measure."
As a guy who coaches kids roughly the age of the mayor's sons, I can definitely say that maneuvering to keep older kids in leagues with younger kids happens. The reasons are simple: a child who is older, and perhaps more physically gifted can overpower and out skill younger kids. For the kid (and parent), this is a great ego boost and can also catch the eye of AAU coaches. This happened frequently in my league, and although I wasn't aware of, it also happened once on my own team. The county/city is supposed to regulate ensuring that children of the proper age are in the right league, but for very obvious reasons (ie: resources), this often goes unchecked.

For that reason alone, I can see a hole in the lawsuit. It's likely that Williams wouldn't have even noticed the age/size of the kids in question had they not been the mayor's sons, nor would he have bothered trying to re-assign them. Several thousand kids play in DPR, so the likelihood that even a guy who's stickler for details (like Williams) to catch this is small. That will prolly hurt his credibility, as the court will probably deduce that he had some personal gripe that he took out on the kids.

What's hard to dismiss however, is that the mayor likely did do something to get Williams fired. Last week's CityPaper had a far more in-depth examination of this case, with all sorts of corroborating evidence that stacks a pretty convincing case against Fenty. Unless something is blatantly falsified in their account, I don't see Williams losing in court. Chances are he doesn't get a full $5M for this, but if he gets a single dime, Fenty should be out of a job. Period.

I've met Fenty at various points in the past, and always seen him as a nice, genuine guy who really wanted to help the city he was born and raised in. The product of an interracial couple, his broad appeal to both young gentrifiers and longtime DC residents is what helped him skate into office a few years back. While his popularity has waned of late due some unwise firings of popular and influential District employees and another minor scandal involving a trip to Dubai, he is still generally considered to be on the trajectory to something bigger and better. This, should it prove to be true, will certainly present a bump in the road.

The city (like many) is strapped for cash right now, and having the mayor fire someone over what amounts to a very petty squabble is one thing. Losing the city millions in the process is positively Kwame Kilpatrickan. It will be interesting to see how this plays out of coming weeks.

Question: Assuming these allegations are true and the city ends up having to pay Williams $5M, should Adrian Fenty step down as mayor? Is this the pettiest thing you've ever personally observed in big-city politricks or can you actually top this story?

Ex-Manager Alleges Wrongful Dismissal After Questioning Fenty's Sons' Play [WashPost]

Basket Case [CityPaper]

blog comments powered by Disqus

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.