SIMMONS: Too many shoes can still drop at D.C. city hall

Kwame R. Brown is expected to appear Friday in federal court and plead guilty to bank fraud tied to his personal finances. He also became the second member of the D.C. Council to resign this year, making city stakeholders more than a little jittery about their body politic.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors continue to examine other questionable money matters, including the political campaigns and spending practices of elected officials and contenders who have won or lost since Anthony A. Williams erased the words “for life” from Marion Barry’s mayoral resume in 1998.

Indeed, it seems U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. doesn’t want to leave any suspect stone unturned.

But as Chicken Little should have said, “The sky is not falling.” Here’s what is going down:

• The possibility that Mayor Vincent C. Gray faces corruption charges, following guilty pleas by two of his 2010 mayoral campaign aides.

• The fact that Mr. Brown is accused of lying on loan documents between 2005 and 2007.

• The fact that Harry Thomas Jr. pleaded guilty to stealing government money, resigned his Ward 5 council seat and is sentenced to 38 months in prison.

• The fact that the feds raided the home and offices of Jeffrey E. Thompson (think Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, which is a local and federal contractor). His network reaches wide and deep, including into Maryland, where tens of thousands in campaign donations aided Gov. Martin O’Malley’s re-election campaign.

Well, the list goes on and on, which gives you an HD-worthy picture of why elected officials in city hall are looking over their shoulders.

Even those politicos we thought were blemish-free probably aren’t - and then there’s “Mendo.”

Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, is positioned to temporarily warm Mr. Brown’s chairman seat until a permanent replacement is elected this fall.

Mr. Mendelson, a good guy, doesn’t wear an optic-white hat, but he “is honest, smart, honorable, courageous, hardworking, and ethical.”

Former council member Carol Schwartz, a popular Republican, gave those attributes to The Washington Post in 2010, when Mr. Mendelson last sought re-election - and she’s right (even though her politics were often a little too far to the left).

The point of repeating them, though, is that the other at-large lawmakers positioned to replace Mr. Brown all have well-reported issues. And the last thing D.C. stakeholders need is for the primary occupants of city hall to contend with or try to explain away any new rock turned over by Mr. Machen.

No. The sky is not failing, but other shoes will surely drop.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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