- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 5, 2003

Congressional leaders with oversight of D.C. matters are impressed with the job Mayor Anthony A. Williams is doing and are confident the city is headed in the right direction.

In recent months, articles in The Washington Times and The Washington Post have detailed problems in D.C. government, ranging from credit card fraud to the extensive number of high-salaried employees. Despite these problems, some congressional leaders said federal involvement in any of these issues would be unfair to D.C. residents.

“I have total faith in Tony Williams,” said U.S. Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat. “This stuff happens in many members’ districts, but we never see them debated on the House floor. It’s one urban area out of 1,000 [nationwide] and they deserve the right” to deal with their problems on their own.

U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, a member of the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee on the District, said he understands the struggles Mr. Williams is facing.

“It’s tough running a city, and I recognize that,” said Mr. Coleman, Minnesota Republican and former mayor of St. Paul. He said improving cities and ridding them of crime and fraud take time.

“You had a mayor who came in here with 50 bad things on his plate and he is dealing with them all. He’s fixed 30 of them so far, and now he has to deal with the other 20. He has had to start from scratch and I am not going to fault him.”

Still, there is at least a small contingent of members who would like to see some of the District’s problems addressed in a better fashion.

U.S. Rep. John Culberson, Texas Republican, said he was “shocked” when he first arrived in town two years ago.

“I just think the level of fraud that I have seen is abominable,” said Mr. Culberson, a member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the District of Columbia.

“The fundamental problem with D.C. government is that it is not connected to any state. I think it should be merged into the state of Maryland … because every American has the right to work and live in an area where they are represented.”

The only way for the problems to be addressed is for the District to be receded to Maryland so D.C. residents can begin to hold someone accountable, he said.

But U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat whose district includes half of Montgomery County, said, “I don’t think that is a practical solution or a politically viable solution.”

• Talk about praying

A Maryland state senator says she wants prayer banned within the Senate and on State House grounds.

Sen. Sharon M. Grosfeld, Montgomery County Democrat, says references to Jesus Christ or any other deity should be avoided and used only at a prayer breakfast.

“It needs to happen in a private facility, like a hotel,” she says of the annual prayer breakfast.

“Since most of the legislators stay in hotels during the session, that should not be much of a problem,” says Mrs. Grosfeld. “That way, it is not part of the normal proceedings.”

Mrs. Grosfeld, who is Jewish, is a member of the Special Commission on Legislative Prayer — a panel convened by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. to discuss her complaints about prayer before sessions.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Carroll County Republican and a Christian, says he would support holding prayer before roll call but doesn’t support restricting prayer on State House grounds.

“I don’t agree with that at all,” says Mr. Haines, who is also on the commission. “The tradition of the Maryland legislature is to have prayer when we are in session, and I don’t want that to end.”

• Incumbent out

Rachel Polk, a member of the Salisbury, Md., City Council known for sparring with Mayor Barrie Parsons Tilghman, finished last in last week’s primary that winnowed a list of 10 candidates to six heading into the Nov. 4 general election.

Mrs. Polk, 54, who is facing assault charges from a reported physical altercation with Mrs. Tilghman’s daughter after a council meeting, said negative press coverage and personal attacks caused the loss. She received 368 votes out of 1,957 ballots cast.

“I don’t think anybody subject to the attacks I’ve been through could have made it,” she said to reporters after the results were announced Tuesday night. “The people voted me into office. They should have had a choice in voting me out.”

Voters in the primary were able to pick up to six for the Nov. 4 ballot. Three new members will be selected for the next four-year term.

The remaining candidates are: Mike Dunn, a corporate fund-raiser for national public radio station WSCL, 1,516 votes; first-time candidate Lynn Cathcart, 1,436; Gary Comegys, 1,318 votes; Patrick Hannon, 954 votes; Donald David Long, 834 votes, and Frank Himelright, 737 votes.

Salisbury’s officials are nonpartisan; the primary was held only to cut down the list of candidates.

The name of incumbent Clarence Thomas “C.T.” Webster, 69, was on the ballot but he died the week before the election after a long illness.

Mrs. Polk, who placed second in the 2000 election, was often at the center of controversy during her term.

Last year, she actively led a closed-door council investigation into the police chief that put her at odds with Mrs. Tilghman.

The probe was dropped after seven months; the chief was exonerated and the investigation cost more than $94,000 in attorney fees.

Mrs. Polk also participated in a contentious campaign to impose new laws on college home rentals last year. She said she received death threats for supporting roommate limits and other measures.

• Marshall duped

The crusading conservative lawmaker who took on Virginia Tech over a student-produced television sex show complained in a letter to the school’s president that the program’s producer used a false name to secure an interview with him.

Delegate Robert G. Marshall wrote to school President Charles W. Steger that Jarett D. Henshaw, co-producer of Virginia Tech TV’s “Sex Talk Live,” deceived him during a telephone interview Wednesday.

“President Steger, when I was in college this behavior was called lying. I believe it still is,” wrote Mr. Marshall, Prince William County Republican.

Mr. Henshaw, a senior communications major, told the Associated Press on Thursday that he gave Mr. Marshall the name of another student who works on the show, “but I never intended to deceive him.”

Mr. Marshall, one of the most outspoken social conservatives in the Republican-dominated House of Delegates, said Mr. Henshaw twice misidentified himself during the afternoon telephone call, including once when Mr. Marshall asked him to restate his name.

“I knew there was something hokey about that call,” Mr. Marshall said in an interview with the AP. “They’re running an academic ‘Animal House’ down there.”

He told Mr. Steger that he learned of the deception Wednesday night when another Virginia Tech TV student producer called and “apologized on behalf of VTTV’s students who were also appalled by Mr. Henshaw’s breach of journalistic ethics, which now is a mark on VTTV.”

The first “Sex Talk Live” was taped Sept. 24 in Virginia Tech’s Student Union before an interactive audience of about 500. It featured discussions of sex positions, masturbation and sexually transmitted diseases. Participating students received sex toys as gifts.

Last Monday, Mr. Marshall fired off a letter to Mr. Steger demanding to know who authorized the show and an explanation of how the show was consistent with the university’s educational mission. The flap produced a lot of news coverage.

In seeking to do his own story, Mr. Henshaw said he gave Mr. Marshall the false name because he feared Mr. Marshall would not talk to him had he known his real identity.

“I did inform him after the interview that it was me. I didn’t see it as a breach of journalistic ethics,” Mr. Henshaw said.

“I’m as outraged as Delegate Marshall if this is true,” said Larry Hincker, the associate vice president for university relations.

• Mary Shaffrey and Robert Redding Jr. contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

• Environmentalist resigns

Kay Slaughter resigned from the Virginia State Water Control Board on Thursday after Republicans complained about a meeting she had with federal officials to discuss a proposed reservoir.

Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle, Virginia Beach Republican, was among those who raised questions about Miss Slaughter’s meeting with Environmental Protection Agency officials to discuss a federal permit for the proposed King William Reservoir.

Environmentalists and Indian tribes have fought the reservoir, long sought by the city of Newport News, on grounds that it would ruin environmentally sensitive fish-spawning habitat and Indian lands.

Miss Slaughter, an environmental lawyer from Charlottesville, sent a resignation letter to Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, stating that she has no conflict of interest on the matter.

When the General Assembly confirmed her appointment in February, Miss Slaughter agreed not to be involved in any issues related to the permit for the reservoir because she had represented parties suing to block the state permit.

In her letter of resignation, Miss Slaughter said she will focus her environmental advocacy work for the Southern Environmental Law Center.

• Indicted official resigns

A Bedford County, Va., official accused of forgery resigned Friday, three weeks after he was indicted on charges of running a scam to win a state transportation project in his district.

The resignation of Bedford County Supervisor Kirby E. Richardson is effective immediately.

“Although I stand falsely accused, recent events in my personal life [have led to] this communication. The intense media attention that currently shadows me has proven to impair the function of government. It is with reluctance that I now step aside,” Mr. Richardson wrote in a letter faxed to county officials.

Mr. Richardson, 62, a Republican from Moneta, faces 82 felony charges for accusations that he forged comment sheets in favor of a $1.1 million Virginia Department of Transportation project. The charges include 39 counts of forgery of a public document, one count of conspiracy to commit forgery of a public document and one count of obstruction of justice.

Starting last fall, VDOT collected dozens of comment forms that were both for and against the proposal to widen the intersection of Routes 608 and 626 near Smith Mountain Lake State Park.

But in April, a citizens group opposed to it discovered identical handwriting on almost all the forms favoring the project, and the Board of Supervisors requested an investigation. Some supervisors who voted for the project later said the forms had influenced their votes.

In August, the Board of Supervisors effectively killed the project by removing it from Bedford County’s six-year road plan.

Virginia State Police began investigating in April. In August, investigators seized notes, letters and computer equipment from Mr. Richardson’s home and business.

He is free on $10,000 bond, and scheduled to appear in court Nov. 4.

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