Marion Barry’s Accident Exposes An Alarming Driving Record, Possible Corruption

Marion Barry was in a minor car accident that exposed the former D.C. mayor’s troubling driving record: 21 outstanding traffic fines totaling $2824. Councilman Barry told police that he got into the accident because he suffered from a diabetic hypoglycemic attack while driving, but now it may be more important to explain how he could rack up so many fines yet not have his car booted.

Marion Barry was the District of Columbia’s longest-serving mayor, he held the office from 1979 to 1991 and again from 1995 until 1999. Since then he has been a member of the city council.

City officials have said that Mr. Barry received no special treatment despite his long-standing political career in the city. According to Linda Grant, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works, “we are equal opportunity, when our boot crew identifies a vehicle that has two or more outstanding tickets, we will then boot.”

Nevertheless, D.C. watchers are questioning the department’s impartiality. Not only does former-mayor Barry already have a spotty reputation for driving and substance abuse, the number of outstanding tickets, 21, makes it seem unlikely that there wasn’t some bias favoring Marion. As John B. Townsend II of AAA Mid-Atlantic explains:

“It wouldn’t happen to the ordinary Joe, two tickets and you’re out, not even three and you’re out.”

When asked about the fines by a reporter, Marion Barry was quick to lose his temper:

“In this town, we decide what’s important, what’s not important, at the station and the community. And with all the stuff going on, you talking about parking tickets? That’s ridiculous…. You don’t know a damn thing about D.C.”

The response will probably not help his reputation, which is already tainted by drug abuse and other legal incidents.

Marion Barry was first busted for drug abuse in the 1990s when an undercover video showed the mayor smoking crack cocaine with a former girlfriend. Barry said of the sting operation, “B***h set me up…I shouldn’t have come up here…goddamn b***h.”

In 2005, when the ex-mayor Marion Barry was on trial for tax evasion, authorities found cocaine and marijuana in his system after a required drug test. He was put on drug counseling as a result.

Later in 2006, area authorities pulled over Marion Barry on two occasions, once for driving under the influence and again for driving with an expired license. In both cases Barry was not convicted of any crime, after successfully passing a breathalyzer test and proving his license was valid.

Although Marion successfully defended himself and received proper drug counseling, his past may add to the suspicions that he is using his connections to avoid paying his bills.

Mr. Barry had to pay his fines in full, almost full, to get his car out of impound after the accident. Marion paid $1779 as of Tuesday, and the remaining was settled through adjudication

His penalties included eight separate fines for not displaying current tags worth $1460, five speeding tickets for $684 (each for driving 11 to 15 miles per hour over the speed limit), and one fine for running a red-light according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Although Marion Barry’s accident is settled, whether the department of public works is corrupt or just occasionally inept is still undecided in the court of popular opinion.

[Image Credit: Linda Davidson/The Washington Post/Getty Images]