Transparency was the word of the evening, rolling several times off of the newly elected commission chair Regina James’ tongue as she and other commissioners attempted to breeze past the financial scandal and hide a maneuver to oust one of their fellow council members. The constituents clamored for resignations and explanations, citing the financial scandals as only the tip of the iceberg in the ways in which the commission has failed the people. The overwhelming response from the commission was hostility and refusal to accept blame.
In the spirit of ANC 5B ambiguity, the commission could do no more than plead ignorance and provide dodgy answers when confronted. In regard to the recent financial scandal brought on by former commissioner Chair William Shelton, the only consistent response was that the commission had simply been too trusting and that they too had been betrayed, which she cited this as being akin to a spousal betrayal. Ms. James also could not provide one concrete reason as to why she and others felt that Commissioner Bennett was not fit to serve as recording secretary (Commissioner James motioned to call a special meeting to review quarterly reports, which were not prepared. When pressed by Commissioner Bennett on the agenda, only then did she admit that they would also be reviewing a commissioner’s service in office. Additional prompting led James to name Bennett as the person to be reviewed for removal from office. How’s that for transparent?), even though there was no mention of removing the commissioner, Treasurer Patricia Daniels-Brown, for her very concrete failure to notice $30,000 disappearing from the ANC 5B account. According to Ms. James, there were “issues they felt inappropriate” in regard to Mr. Bennett, and it was “taxing” on the commission. The meeting continued in this fashion as she also railroaded through her agenda, ignored public request for clarification on business matters (e.g., refusal to read aloud an ANC letter of request for money) and a mad motion after motion without providing any detail to the public regarding the business being conducted. (editor’s note: The commission disregarded Robert’s Rules of Order, the governing system of conducting public meetings, which would have allowed public comment on new business motions brought before a vote.)
Just as the intensity of the public sentiment reached a boiling point, the citizens in the audience were finally allowed to comment on the ongoing scandal and abuse of power by the commission. The commission’s reaction was at times, less than respectable. One commissioner replied to a citizen’s comment with something to the effect of, “who are you to tell me that I belong in my position?” Commissioner James’ knee jerk reaction was to motion for dismissal when at least half dozen constituents still had not been heard. At least one commissioner had the decency to make a plea for the people and shame the rest of the commission into agreeing to hear additional comments.
The conclusion of the meeting was no disappointment. In an attempt to clear her name, Daniels-Brown made a clueless and inept statement that because she is a reverend (irrelevant), she would not and did not steal money. She then admitted that she did not prepare one quarterly report since January because she “didn’t have time.” What Daniels-Brown and most of other commissioners ultimately failed to grasp is that that the people clearly asked those commissioners who failed to do their jobs to step down.
In all fairness, some of the commissioners were less vocal than others and not all immediately jumped on the Ms. James’ bandwagon. However, if the rest of the commission doesn’t start reading their bylaws and standing up for their citizens, then they should enjoy their remaining time in office, because as one citizen put it, “the ANC 5B commission got off easy tonight”.
Note: The special-but PUBLIC-meeting to review quarterly reports and to review the recording secretary Vaughn Bennett’s position will be held either September 14th or 15th. Plan on attending. If it’s anything like the September 1st meeting, you won’t forget it.
Editors Note: The above commentary was written by a resident of ANC5B who attended the commission’s meeting on Sept 1, 2011. It is apparent that the commission made no efforts to be open and transparent at this meeting and Regina James’ attempt to oust a fellow commissioner because he has opposing views on how the commission’s business should be run (according to bylaws and rules, no less) shows that as a leader, Ms. James fails miserably. A lesson in leadership is being able to accept differing views and negotiate to a compormise. This is lost on the new Chairperson of the commission. I wanted to thank Commissioner Davis for her resignation and service, as she gave her 30-day notice to step down. For anyone’s interest: http://www.dcboee.org/regulations/recall_process.asp