Barry disapproval ties up DYRS security funding

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray says Council member Marion Barry’s efforts to hold up $1.5 million in funding for a trouble-plagued juvenile detention center has delayed security upgrades by “more than a month.”

Mr. Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, is known for holding up contracts or the reprogramming of budgeted money through “disapproval resolutions.” His most recent effort attempts to prevent the city from using capital dollars for “safety and security enhancements” at the New Beginnings Youth Development Center.

The Laurel, Md., facility, which houses juvenile wards of the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, had been plagued by attacks on officers, including an April 18 escape in which a youth beat an officer, took his keys and drove to Southeast in the officer’s car.

Mr. Barry said he introduced the resolution last month because he cannot get enough information from DYRS about the agency’s performance.

DYRS is one of the worst agencies in this city,” he said.

Mr. Barry is an open supporter of Mr. Gray, yet his penchant for such resolutions did not end with former mayor Adrian Fenty, a Democrat whom Mr. Gary defeated in 2010. He has introduced 18 of them during the current City Council session.

Yet his stall tactics on DYRS prompted Mr. Gray, a Democrat, to strike back in a letter.

“By virtue of this disapproval resolution you introduced, we already have lost more than a month in achieving the upgrades that everyone, including you, agrees are important,” Mr. Gray wrote in the letter, posted online Thursday by the Washington City Paper.

In July, Mr. Barry and Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, disapproved of Neil Stanley as the mayor’s pick to lead DYRS, citing his lack of experience and ongoing troubles at the agency. Despite their official dissent as members of the council’s Committee on Human Services, Mr. Stanley was automatically confirmed when the full council declined to take up the nomination before summer recess.

Members of the committee discussed security issues and violence at New Beginnings at length during confirmation hearings. Asked how his request for information was linked to security funding, Mr. Barry said, “It doesn’t work that way.”

“They promise, and don’t do anything,” he said.

A spokeswoman for DYRS said the mayor’s letter to Mr. Barry and the council “accurately expresses DYRS concerns about the need to take prompt, appropriate action to ensure the safety and security of New Beginnings staff, residents and visitors.”

Said Mr. Stanley: “We’ve done a thorough analysis and believe the request appropriately serves the need to enhance our operations.”

Mr. Graham, chairman of the Committee on Human Services, said issues related to the upgrades “are fast being resolved.”

He and Mr. Barry recently met with DYRS officials and Beatriz “B.B.” Otero, deputy mayor for health and human services, and they agreed that security at New Beginnings is a “fundamental issue,” Mr. Graham said.

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