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Arrington Dixon's Conflict of Interest

Dorothy Brizill

September 1997

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dropcwhi.jpg (1376 bytes)ouncilmember Arrington Dixon, who has the distinction of being the only member of the City Council to be elected with even fewer votes than Chairman Linda Cropp, faces a serious conflict of interest problem that he pretends not to understand.

Dixon was appointed by Mayor Barry to be a public member of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), which plays an important behind-the-scenes role in enforcing the comprehensive plan for city development. Dixon is supposed to represent the public, but he sees his role as voting the interests of the Mayor, and even admits that he looks to Jill Dennis, the director of the city's Office of Planning, for guidance on how to the Mayor wants him to vote.

But now Dixon has been elected by the Democratic State Committee to the at-large Council seat vacated by Cropp when she was elected to the Chairman's seat after Dave Clarke's death. Charlene Drew Jarvis already represents the City Council on the NCPC, and Dixon now makes the second Councilmember who holds a seat there — preempting the position that should be held by a citizen representative.

When he was confronted with the problem at a lawn party a few days after his swearing-in as a Councilmember, Dixon acted as though he didn't see any conflict. "I'm a citizen, too," he said repeatedly. And he wove a tangled web of double-talk about how he wasn't a Councilmember in his position on the NCPC, since he was appointed as a citizen and not as a Councilmember.

If the District had a government that really cared about ethical conflicts, conflicts of interest, and appearances of conflicts of interest, Dixon would be forced to resign from the National Capital Planning Commission. But the District doesn't have a government in which ethical standards are held seriously, and Dixon's questionable judgment won't get him in any trouble.

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After I questioned Arrington Dixon about his continued membership on the National Capital Planning Commission, I received the following message on my telephone answering machine from Phil Pannell. Pannell is a Ward 8 gay activist, an employee of Dixon's Anacostia Coordinating Council, and a leading campaign worker for Dixon. This message is reproduced verbatim and in its entirety. I'm not vouching for it -- Phil routinely says this sort of thing to everyone with whom he disagrees -- but is he telling me something about Arrington that I never knew?

dropywhi.jpg (1203 bytes)es, hello, this is Phillip Pannell calling for Dorothy Brizill. Dorothy, I plan to let it be known very clearly in Ward One exactly how your homophobic rudeness towards a black, gay man, east of the Anacostia River, has gone down. I think that will reverberate very clearly in your cosmopolitan ward.

And I really don't want to ever speak to you again, and everything. And I don't like your bigotry. And I think that the city needs to know it, and I plan to let it be known. Thank you very much.

Saturday, August 30, 1997, 2:28 p.

For a follow-up message from Phil Pannell, follow this link.

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