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D.C. police e-mail flap sparks verbal jab on Hill


April 03, 2001
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D.C. police e-mail flap sparks verbal jab on Hill

Marlene L. Johnson; The Washington Times
March 30, 2001, Friday, Final Edition
Copyright 2001 News World Communications, Inc.
The Washington Times
March 30, 2001, Friday, Final Edition

(WASHINGTON) - The blowup over hundreds of offensive e-mail messages sent between D.C. police officers has worked its way over to the Capitol and sparked a verbal skirmish.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District's nonvoting representative, is known for speaking her mind, and loudly.

She did so for The Times on Wednesday, chastising U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella, Maryland Republican and chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee on the District, for the statement she issued about the e-mail messages.

Mrs. Morella's statement was similar to comments from just about everyone else, but Mrs. Norton took offense because it smacked of congressional intervention. "It's clearly an insult to the mayor and the City Council, not to mention Chief Charles H. Ramsey," Mrs. Norton said of Mrs. Morella's tersely worded statement and reaction to possible hearings. "Don't treat me like a child or my police chief like a child or my mayor like a child."

Mrs. Morella said she was "angry and disturbed" by the contents of the e-mail messages, and hinted that the issue could be more than just a D.C. concern.

"Anything that interferes with the ability of the Metropolitan Police Department to make the streets of our nation's capital safer for residents, commuters and tourists is not merely a local matter, but one that is of grave concern to Congress as well," Mrs. Morella said.

"Chief Ramsey and his deputies have said they were 'sickened' by the discovery of these messages and plan to take appropriate actions in response. We in Congress will hold them to their word. There must be consequences for these actions," she added.

Mrs. Norton said she would stop any efforts to have hearings on a local issue like this, adding that Mrs. Morella should look toward her home state to root out problems in a police force.

"The last time I heard, Montgomery County has a huge racial-profiling problem and they need their congresswoman," Mrs. Norton said, referring to accusations that police there conducted traffic stops based on the race of drivers.

The Justice Department investigated that and found no evidence of a pattern of harassment or mistreatment of minorities. The department agreed to have its officers record the race of all persons pulled over for traffic stops.

Mrs. Norton said that instead of stepping into D.C. matters, members of Congress should shout "amen and thank you" for Chief Ramsey investigating the vulgar e-mail messages.

HER MAJESTY'S DISTRICT?

D.C. "shadow senator" Paul Strauss is taking the home-rule fight across the pond, talking up the issue with our former Colonial masters, the Brits.

Mr. Strauss, in London for about a week, told The Washington Times that the trip "is an effort to take this struggle way beyond the Beltway" and build international support.

D.C. leaders have mounted an increasingly vocal campaign to gain voting rights in Congress and even statehood, using the slogan, "Taxation Without Representation."

Mr. Strauss chuckled at the all-too-obvious irony: He is asking for support from the very government that colonists - using the same slogan - waged the Revolutionary War against.

"Two hundred-some-odd years later, we still have the same problem," Mr. Strauss said.

In his discussions with government officials, he has half-jokingly suggested the United Kingdom annex the District.

"Who knows? Maybe we could get a better deal," he said. "Admittedly, it's a little bit tongue in cheek."

Most government officials there are surprised to learn of the District's status, Mr. Strauss said.

Labor Party officials on Tuesday "found it amusing," Mr. Strauss said. "They really were astonished to find out the extent of it."

Mr. Strauss had found a few similarities to the District's situation. London only recently gained the right to elect its own mayor, whom Mr. Strauss hopes to meet with.

And members of the political party not in power - currently the Conservative Party - are known as "shadow" officials.

If an election is called, they must make sure "they're informed and ready to take over the government at a moment's notice," he said.

"Frankly, that's always been one of the functions of the shadow congressional delegation," Mr. Strauss said. "On the chance, and I concede it's not likely in the 106th Congress , we get voting rights, we would be ready and able to begin representing our constituents."

Since federal law prohibits D.C. money from funding the voting-rights effort, Mr. Strauss noted that he paid for the trip out of his own pocket.

"No taxpayer funds are being used in any way, although today's lunch was at the courtesy of her majesty's government," Mr. Strauss said.

"I opted for the chicken," he said. "I'll think I'll be staying away from the hamburgers."

FLYING HIGH

Maryland state Sen. John J. Hafer will reimburse state police for the cost of a helicopter ride he hitched early this week from Annapolis to Garrett County, where his farmhouse was burning.

"I am frankly more than willing to pay any expenses incurred and fully intend to do so," Mr. Hafer told WHAG-TV on Wednesday. The one-hour round trip cost $600.

His aide, Mary Beth Pirolozzi, said it was her idea to ask police for help because she felt her boss was too upset to drive after learning of the fire that was consuming the house that has been in his family for generations.

Mr. Hafer, Garrett/Allegany County Republican, said police initially said they would drive him home.

"The next thing I know, they said, we are going to take you to the airport and put you on a fixed-wing plane initially, and it ended up being a helicopter," Mr. Hafer said.

Col. David Mitchell, superintendent of the state police, has reprimanded Lt. Col. David W. Czorapinski, who authorized the flight.

No one was hurt in the fire that destroyed the 2 1/2-story wood-frame house that Mr. Hafer and his wife, Lorene, use as a weekend retreat. They also have a house in Frostburg.

IN THE RACE

Virginia Delegate Whitt W. Clement on Wednesday become the first Democrat to file petitions necessary to qualify for his party's June 12 statewide primary for attorney general.

Mr. Clement, a Danville lawyer in a four-way battle for the nomination, filed petitions bearing 15,619 signatures with the State Board of Elections. He was required to turn in 10,000 signatures by an April 13 deadline.

Also seeking the nomination are Delegate A. Donald McEachin, who practices law in Richmond; state Sen. John S. Edwards, an attorney and former federal prosecutor from Roanoke; and Sylvia Clute, a Richmond lawyer.

NEW NAMES, OLD NAMES

Mayor Anthony A. Williams is making additions to his executive staff. Two are newcomers to city government, while two others have been running the departments since late last year.

Jack Abadie will spend the next five years as the District's chief procurement officer. He has filled that role on an interim basis since October.

Neil Albert can drop the word interim from his title of director of parks and recreation. He replaced Robert Newman, who left the agency under a cloud of accusations last October.

Eugene Brickhouse spent the past seven years as an appointed executive at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The retired Army colonel will now run the District's Office of Labor Management Programs.

Management consultant Beverly Wheeler becomes the mayor's new executive director of neighborhood action, where she will help coordinate community-redevelopment efforts in the city's eight wards.

Full story: D.C. police e-mail flap sparks verbal jab on Hill





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