- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The D.C. Council passed a measure Tuesday that expands its self-imposed ban on profane or abusive language to any public meeting attended by members, a swift response to a blowup between two members at the council’s retreat on Valentine’s Day.

The resolution by council Chairman Kwame R. Brown comes just one week after council members David A. Catania, at-large independent, and Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, exchanged heated remarks and almost came to fisticuffs, according to multiple reports.

The men sparred Feb. 14 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center over the handling of the United Medical Center in Southeast. Mr. Catania oversees health matters in the District, and Mr. Barry represents the ward in which the hospital is located.

With a quick, unanimous vote, the council expanded its code of conduct to include public meetings such as breakfasts and retreats, which are frequently attended by the press but not the general public.

The resolution permits Mr. Brown, a Democrat, to remove a member to maintain order, after one warning.

The chairman cannot eject a member from a formal meeting on the dais, because that would be considered an infringement on a member’s voting rights, though the entire council can decide to remove a disorderly member.

Officials said the new measure is intended to improve discourse and respect among the council members, and not simply ban profanity.

Mr. Barry did not attending the meeting on Tuesday.

Mr. Catania said he is not about to apologize to Mr. Barry, a longtime mayor of the city and arguably the most well-known man in D.C. politics.

He also said the formal response to his dust-up with Mr. Barry amounts to a “tempest in a teapot.”

After the meeting, Mr. Catania said it was odd for the council to “all of a sudden inject itself as Emily Post or Miss Manners while last year the majority of the members said nothing when a colleague essentially admitted to stealing from the public.”

Mr. Catania was among the first three city lawmakers to call for the resignation of council member Harry Thomas Jr. from his Ward 5 seat, after D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan sued him for bilking the District of more than $350,000 from funds earmarked for youth programs.

Mr. Thomas, a Democrat, resigned his seat and pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges in early January.

The D.C. Republican Committee also weighed in on the new measure, with references to Mr. Thomas, who faces a likely prison term at sentencing on May 3.

Forcing city officials “to act like adults shouldn’t require an act of the council, unless it includes term limits and ending pay-to-play,” said committee Chairman Bob Kabel said. “The reason why the council is dysfunctional and they have no moral compass are for the same reasons why they allowed disgraced council member Harry Thomas to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the District treasury.”