Potty-mouthed D.C. Council racks up massive cell phone bill

While D.C. leaders have been touring the country, attempting to convince state lawmakers to help the District grow up and become a full-fledged state, the D.C. Council has been spewing profanity and piling up cell phone bills like petulant teenagers.

In the last 16 months, the council members and approximately 30 senior staff members who use city-issued phones tallied a cell phone bill of $61,000, according to the Washington Post. While the majority of monthly fees have been normal, Council members Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Michael Brown (I-At Large) have racked up some truly impressive bills.

Including a $734.45 bill for the month of August, Bowser incurred $3,016 in charges last year, or an average of $251 per month. She said she had to participate in a conference call while on vacation in August. Bowser told the Post, “I am always on duty, check in with my office and available on my BlackBerry at all times, even while on vacation.”

The award for highest monthly fee goes to Brown, whose bill for the month of July was a whopping $1,083. According to his office, the expense was incurred because he continued to receive emails on his mobile device from other council members, his staff and his constituents while he was vacationing.

Although the Post article does not list any particularly egregious examples, it also notes that staff members were occasionally responsible for monthly bills reaching into the hundreds of dollars. The Council has now renegotiated its contract with AT&T, and hopes to reduce costs by as much as one-third.

In a separate loose-tongued incident at the Council, David Catania (I-At Large) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) nearly came to blows earlier this month at a weekend work retreat when Barry asked the District’s CFO about a financially-troubled hospital in his ward. According to the Washington Examiner, Catania shouted “Eff you, Marion, your agenda is so transparent.” Catania then said Barry was “full of shit” and “a despicable human being.” Barry later told the Examiner, “David has a pattern of attacking black men. He’s as vindictive as they come.”

Although profane moments of contention between members is nothing new, Council Chair Kwame Brown quickly advanced a proposal, albeit relatively toothless, to prohibit members from using “profane, indecent or abusive language” at any public meetings. The measure was unanimously approved without debate last Tuesday.

The inanity of the affair provoked the Washington City Paper to wonder what else the Council should ban, including “athletic braggadocio” and “false umbrage.” Vox would like to add using a taxpayer-funded cell phone to read emails while vacationing to the list.

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