Friday, May 14, 2010

Craziness in ANC1A! Commissioner bicker-fest!

Sounds like I need to get to an ANC1A meeting soon! There's been some pretty amusing back-and-forth on the Ward One listserve, after ANC1A chair Cliff Valenti stepped down from that position:
Hello - Effective immediately I am resigning as chair of ANC1A. I have great concerns over anyones ability to maintain order and productivity at a meeting of ANC1A. I hope the next chair proves me wrong. Thanks, Cliff Valenti ANC1A08
That message was posted not by Valenti, but forwarded to the listserve by commissioner Lenwood Johnson, to which commissioner Betty Pair objected, in an email not sent to the list: "It seems to me that Cliff should have been allowed to make his own announcement about what he is or is not doing on the commission.. .and not to have been pre-empted by Lenwood Johnson."

Johnson's response, which he forwarded to the Ward One listserve: "Betty,
I simply forwarded Cliff's resignation note to the public. I would think any sensible person would find nothing wrong with my action. However, I'm not surprised by your response."

Followed by a resident, Sam Moore: "Mr. Johnson,
After your illegal behavior last night, Im not surprised by your response."

Johnson: "Mr. Moore,
I'm sorry that I parked too close to a fire hydrant Wednesday night. (Luckily, I didn't get a ticket.)"

Moore: "Hatch Act, I wish you gave a damn."

Johnson: "...And I wish you would take the time to find understand the Hatch Act, which is applicable only to government employees. I am not a government employee; I am an elected government official."

Moore: "Well, since it's a D.C. electeded position, the Federal Hatch Act does apply."

Johnson: "am neither a federal nor local government employee, so the Hatch Act does not apply to me. I"

Then another resident acts as the voice of reason, and the bickering stops: "I hope you all realize that you are sending out your childish banter to the entire listserv. It's neither appropriate for this forum or becoming of adults. Please keep it to yourselves."

I'm not sure what the purported "illegal behavior" was. Over on the Columbia Heights Yahoo group, a resident posted an email where Valenti explains his resignation, saying that rules weren't followed at the meetings, commissioners were using money without reporting why (like paying cell phone bills), aren't following up on grants to see if they're spent properly, and actually advocates that ANCs be dissolved. Interesting stuff.

UPDATE: Commenters say Johnson was wearing a Fenty sticker. I'm not sure if that does violate the Hatch Act, which prevents federal and DC employees from political campaigning, but which doesn't cover the DC mayor and city council. However, I'm not sure if ANC commissioners are counted as DC employees -- I would think not, but the issue is somewhat unclear, though as of 2009, the special counsel ruled that it does cover ANC commissioners, meaning Johnson was wrong. However, wearing a political sticker may also violate ANC rules. Not sure.

UPDATE 2: These two got into it before as well, using the same forward-to-listserve method of escalating the argument.


  1. I heard that Johnson was wearing a "vote for Fenty" pin or something...

  2. Anon 12:40 you are correct; I was in attendance and Mr. Johnson was wearing a Fenty Sticker; Valenti informed him this was in violation of the rules and the bickering began in front of all community members in attendance. It was a complete circus -- and every single commissioner should be completely embarrassed for the behavior exhibited. I am pretty sure the Real Housewives of [insert your favorite series here] would even be appalled. It was all very disheartening; and the Fenty Sticker / Hatch Act was only the beginning.... The bickering continued between commissioners throughout the meeting - therefore prompting Valenti's resignation. I left after the second agenda item just as Valenti was apologizing to the audience for wasting everyone's time.... I couldn't have agreed more.

  3. And this performance by two-bit politicos is exemplary of why most people don't have patience for community meetings.

  4. The Fenty sticker was the more mild issue of the evening. The real action happened when the owner of Morgan Seafood started yelling at commissioners because he want a liquor license and outdoor seating until 2am on weekdays and 3am on weekends. Valenti said he did not support the business getting the license and at the very least the hours should be modified to what they are for other establishments. Thats when Morgan called him a racist and a lady kept saying over and over again that Valenti was discriminating against him. It really was like a tragic comedy.

  5. Yes, inexplicably ANC commissioners, who are not paid and are elected in nonpartisan elections are somehow covered by the Hatch Act. It's rarely been pursued for legal action though. Take for instance Muriel Bowser who did not resign her ANC seat until she was sworn in as a councilmember.

    I think the whole Fenty sticker at the meeting was just a canard for the rest of the nonsense. Cliff's a good guy, but should have totally ignored the sticker and just gone about the business of the meeting.

    And the Sam Moore person who posted on the email, is a member of the DC GOP and is serving as Treasurer for Marc Morgan's run for the Republican nomination for Ward One.

    Nothing is ever what it seems on the surface. Good times.


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