Tag Archives: ANC Commissioner Steptoe

Outgoing ANC 5B Commissioner Steptoe FOIA Case To Cost Taxpayers $58,400

120px-Freedom_of_Information_logoSo, we are a little late in posting this, and many readers have probably already seen this news in other places, but better late than never. Regular Bridge readers will recall that in April we reported that  Superior Judge Michael O’Keefe has announced his final ruling in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case that pitted many neighbors against ANC 5B. The judge ruled against ANC5B and at the time it looked like the case would cost tax payers about $60,000. Here is a link to the complete Court Order. Now, the case has finally been settled and the result is that taxpayers are on the hook to pay $58,400 to cover the costs associated with defending Commissioner Steptoe’s actions, which included deleting a recording that was the subject of a FOIA request. Here is outgoing ANC 5B04 Commissioner Steptoe’s email announcement of the settlement:

Sent: Thursday, July 24, 2014 20:09
To: Steptoe, Carolyn C.(ANC 5B04)
Cc: Steptoe, Carolyn C.(ANC 5B04)
Subject: [WardFive] Status Update: Crimmins v. DC

Dear Community —

Followup information re the FOIA lawsuit case (Conor Crimmins v. District of Columbia ), involving ANC 5B, our ANC 5B rec’d update information today that the District has decided to settle the Crimmins case for $57,000, plus the $1,400.00 sanctions awarded against ANC 5B by Judge O’Keefe, for a total of $58,400.

ANC 5B was notified that this settlement will be paid out of the Settlement and Judgments Fund and that, in exchange, each party would withdraw its appeal. ANC 5B was also told that OAG and OSG are in agreement regarding settling this case.

Very kind regards,

Commissioner Carolyn C. Steptoe
Single Member District 5B04
Vice Chairperson, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5B
GOVERNMENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
(202) 321-3860/ANC cell
(202) 636-8191/home
(pardon typos, etc.)

The story was also covered in the Washington City Paper.

ANC 5B04 Commissioner Steptoe To Relinquish Her Seat Soon

ANC 5B04 Commissioner Carolyn Steptoe needs no introduction to our regular readers. Here is one of the latest of multiple stories we covered about Ms. Steptoe and our ongoing neighborhood saga regarding Freedom of Information Act compliance and ANC 5B. We learned tonight that Steptoe is moving on and vacating her seat as ANC Commissioner.
Carolyn Steptoe (left) with some of her fellow ANC 5B Commissioners in 2013.
Commissioner Steptoe just shared the following  message via email.
Dear 5B04 Community —
In keeping with my commitment to the 5B04 community, I wish to pass along this information.
After 16 blessed years in my Lawrence Street (Brookland) home – a lovely environment I purchased as a single, young professional – I have decided to sell my home.  I will remain in my D.C. hometown, but will live in upper, upper N.W. (16th Street  – the inimitable “Gold Coast.” )  Like many Washingtonians, yes, I do sing The Jefferson’s theme song in association w/the prospect of living on The Gold Coast… lol!
Anyway, my new home will be 2 blocks from Walter Reed.  It is also but a few blocks from Rock Creek Park and Silver Spring.  As most know, the Gold Coast is a very quiet, tree-lined and long-standing residential neighborhood.
I anticipate finalizing (prayerfully) all my relocation matters soon; several weeks anyway.  Once everything is finalized, I shall then relinquish my 5B04 SMD commissioner seat since, at that point, I shall neither be a 5B04 resident nor a resident of Ward 5.
I wanted to share this with you so you may know, until my formal transition out of our 5B04 community, you may contact me anytime should you need assistance.   Until such time, I shall continue to be in the 5B04 community and work as the elected 5B04 commissioner.  Although ANC 5B is on summer break, I can be reached on 202-321-3860.  You may also send me an email at 5b04@anc.dc.gov.
Please know it remains my honor to serve my community and enjoy my neighbors.  Blessings and happy summer to all!
Very kind regards,
Commissioner Carolyn C. Steptoe
Single Member District 5B04
Vice Chairperson, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5B
GOVERNMENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
5B04@anc.dc.gov

(202) 321-3860/ANC cell
(202) 636-8191/home
(pardon typos, etc.)

Final Ruling In ANC 5B FOIA Case Will Cost Taxpayers $60,000

120px-Freedom_of_Information_logoWe have been keeping readers up to date throughout the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) court case between Brookland resident Conor Crimmins and ANC 5B, specifically ANC 5B04 Commissioner Carolyn Steptoe. Now the case has finally come to an end. The FOIA request was for the release of the audio recording of the April 2013 SMD 5B04 meeting taken by Commissioner Steptoe. Her refusal to release it until subpoenaed to do so was the basis of this law suit. We learned at the latest hearing that a forensics expert was able to recover the audio file from the recording device, despite the finding that it was intentionally deleted and was made available to the public. We included a link to the audio recording in our last post about this case. On Tuesday April 15  Superior Judge Michael O’Keefe has announced his final ruling in this case. Sorry for the delay in bringing the final results of the case to you. Here is a link to the complete Court Order. To save you some time, here are  a few key excerpts from the Court Order:

  • The Court concludes that more likely than not, Commissioner Steptoe deleted the file subject to the FOIA request in order to frustrate attempts to obtain it.
  • Commissioner Steptoe’s behavior is regrettable and possibly criminal under D.C. Code § 2-537(d). To make matters worse, Commissioner Steptoe testified falsely under oath about this matter. Her testimony was confusing and contradictory.
  • Commissioner Steptoe acknowledged her suspicion that “FOIA requests tend to be pretextual strategies by person/entities seeking a leg up and/or expose.” Her contumacious behavior stems from her refusal to provide D.C. residents with an audio recording of an ANC SMD 5B04 meeting that she held regarding an issue of interest to many people in the neighborhood.
  • Ironically, Commissioner Steptoe stated that she wished the recording could be found because the recording would prove she acted appropriately during the hearing.
  • Upon inspection, Commissioner Steptoe’s recorder was fully functioning, there was no evidence of file corruption, and he was able to determine that the recording of the April 27, 2013, meeting had been manually deleted.
  • The Court will refer the case to the OAG and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for potential prosecution of Commissioner Steptoe’s perjury and destruction of the recording.

This Court Order marks the end of this civil case, but it leaves DC taxpayers with a price to pay, as the Washington City Paper reported that the cost to defend ANC 5B and Commissioner Steptoe will be  around $60,000. We will stay on top of this issue and see what happens if/when the OAG and US Attorney’s Office pick up the matter in criminal court. From what we understand, the penalty for perjury is up to 10 years, though it can be difficult to prove.

ANC 5B04 Recording Recovered In FOIA Ongoing Case – Hear It Here

120px-Freedom_of_Information_logoAnyone who follows our blog, or just Brookland civic events, is aware of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) court case involving ANC 5B04 Commissioner Steptoe and a private citizen, Conor Crimmins, over her audio recording of the  April 2013 ANC 5B-04 meeting. The result of the FOIA case was this summary judgment, requiring Commissioner Steptoe to release the recording. In our latest update on this case, we shared that Commissioner Steptoe was subpoenaed after the attorney for ANC 5B stated that the recording is unavailable and that the ANC had taken all reasonable steps to produce it unsuccessfully. At the court date for which Commissioner Steptoe was subpoenaed, an eye-witness told me that the Commissioner claimed that she had no idea what happened to the recording. She also turned the audio recorder over to the judge, and the judge, in turn, allowed a forensics expect to examine the recorder. According to a discussion I had with Mr. Crimmins, the forensics expert was able to retrieve the audio file in less than an hour at a cost of just over $300. The forensics expert is also creating a report that will be submitted to the court that states that the recording was deleted. You can hear the recording here. Note that the part of the meeting concerning Brookland’s Finest Restaurant, that I would suspect many readers would be most interested in, begins around the 48 minute mark.

As for the next steps in the case, the attorney for Mr. Crimmins will be filing a motion soon alleging Civil Contempt of Court, which basically means failure to adhere to an order from the court. We will let you know when we get any further news in this ongoing court case.

ANC 5B-04 Commissioner Issued Subpoena In Ongoing FOIA Case

We have been following an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case over the recording of the  April 2013 ANC 5B-04 meeting hosted by Commissioner Carolyn Steptoe. There has been some conjecture about what exactly happened at the meeting. Many residents claim that Commissioner Steptoe was rude and dismissive to her constituents while Commissioner Steptoe claimed that meeting attendees were disrespectful and mob-like towards her, and that is what prompted her to shut down the meeting. There hasn’t been an ANC 5B-04 meeting since, and at the February 2014 ANC 5B meeting Commissioner Steptoe announced that she will no longer hold SMD meetings because they “cause a ruckus among some people”. Other than hearsay, the only documentation of what actually occurred is an audio recording Commissioner Steptoe made during the meeting. Realizing this recording could provide clarity to the situation, Brookland resident Conor Crimmins and the Brookland Bridge Blog submitted FOIA requests for the recording, both of which were denied by ANC 5B. Mr. Crimmins decided to pursue the issue and took it court. The result, this summary judgment, required Commissioner Steptoe to release the recording despite her contention that the recording was made with her personal device and therefore is her possession. At that point, in early November 2013, those of us following this case thought it was pretty much over.

It turns out that Commissioner Steptoe has yet to turn the recording over, and in fact, it may have been destroyed. In early December 2013 ANC 5B asked for the court for a reconsideration; arguing that ANC 5B should not be held responsible for the recording, that the recording is unavailable, and the judge should reverse his opinion (you can see Defendant ANC 5B’s Reply to Plaintiff’s Opposition To Its Motion for Reconsideration here).  In response, the court denied the Reconsideration in mid December and re-asserted that the defendant (ANC 5B) must make the recording available (you can see the court’s Order on Motion for Reconsideration here). 

On January 30th, 2014, I attended a court hearing in this case, in hopes of securing a copy of the recording to share with our readers. At that hearing the attorney for ANC 5B stated that the recording is unavailable and that the ANC has taken all reasonable steps to produce it unsuccessfully. It was unclear what happened to the recording, other than it could not be retrieved from the recorder. The attorney said they even obtained an estimate from a forensics expert who said it could cost $1,400 – $1,800 to retrieve the files from the recorder. Further, the attorney asserted, taxpayers should not be responsible to pay this fee through ANC 5B. Upon further questioning from the judge about the ANC’s responsibility and inability to produce the recording, the ANC attorney explained that ANC 5B doesn’t have control or authority over Commissioner Steptoe, and that she should be held responsible for the recording, not ANC 5B. The Judge concluded that it is “unseemly that someone destroys documents that are public…there has to be a consequence to that”, and added that there needs to be an evidentiary hearing at which Commissioner Steptoe testifies about what happened to the recording. The judge also noted that Commissioner Steptoe would be held accountable for the recording, not ANC 5B. The attorney for ANC 5B asserted that Commissioner Steptoe is not technically an employee and therefore they cannot compel her to appear at a court date. The judge therefore agreed that Commissioner Steptoe be served with a subpoena and appear at the next hearing  coming up on Wednesday, March 19th. We contacted the plaintiff in this case, Conor Crimmins, and he confirmed to us that Commissioner Steptoe was served with the subpoena on Wednesday, February 26th, 2014.

We will continue to follow this case as it winds through the court process.

Ward 5 Councilmember Race: Reader Poll – What Would You Like To Know?

On November 4th, 2014 DC will have its general election, and the seat for Ward 5 Councilmember will be on the ballot.We learned in late October that current Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie is seeking re-election, which shouldn’t be a surprise given his popularity. Then the race got more interesting in November when Brookland’s own ANC 5B04 Commissioner Carolyn Steptoe decided to jump in the race. The deadline for submitting petitions to get on the ballot was January 2nd, and while the signatures collected may still be challenged, the DC Board of Elections released the list of candidates on the ballot for the Democratic primary at this point. For Ward 5 Councilmember, these are:

  • Kathy Henderson, current ANC Commissioner of SMD 5D05 (near Benning Rd. and Maryland Ave, NE). Her website is here.
  • Jacqueline Manning, current ANC Commissioner of SMD 5C04 (near Mt. Olivet and Benning Roads, NE). We could not locate a website for Ms. Manning.
  • Kenyan McDuffie, current Ward 5 Councilmember. His website is here.
  • Carolyn Steptoe, current ANC Commissioner of Bookland’s SMD 5B04. Her website is here.

We congratulate all of these candidates for seeking public office and look forward to hearing more about what they plan to offer the residents of Ward 5. Here is where you come in – we are asking readers to submit questions for these candidates through our comments section below. We will aggregate the most common questions, ask them of each candidate, and assuming they respond, post their answers here.

Brookland’s ANC 5B-04 Commissioner Steptoe To Seek Ward 5 Councilmember Seat

Commissioner Steptoe spaking at the February 2013 ANC 5B Meeting.
Commissioner Steptoe speaking at the February 2013 ANC 5B Meeting.

On November 4th, 2014 DC will have its general election, and the seat for Ward 5 Councilmember will be on the ballot.We learned in late October that current Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie is seeking re-election, which shouldn’t be a surprise given his popularity. The race, however, just got more interesting this week when Brookland’s own ANC 5B 04 Commissioner Carolyn Steptoe decided to throw her hat in the ring. (For brevity, I am assuming that Brookland Bridge readers do not need a back story on Commissioner Steptoe, as we have written a number of posts about her tenure as ANC.) Here is an email she sent to constituents earlier this week:

Hello Ward 5 – After much deliberation and prayer, I picked up nominating petitions seeking the democratic ballot for the Ward 5 D.C. City Council seat.  If you are a Democrat and interested in signing my nominating petitions to help me qualify for the Ward 5 City Council ballot in the April 2014 primary, please let me know. 

 Also, if you are interested in helping me obtain petition signatures, please contact me.  The minimum signatures are 250; 20 per page with nominating petitions due January 2, 2014.  More campaign information to follow.
 
Meanwhile, I shall continue working hard in and for our ward while also obtaining signatures to earn your support and vote.  Pls. know I greatly appreciate any support.  Thank you kindly.
A few days later she followed up with another message:
Good afternoon Ward 5 –

 In response to so many generous offerings, I feel obliged to provide this disclaimer.  Please know that the Steptoe campaign seeks only volunteer worker efforts and Ward 5 citizen votes.  No financial donations please.

 DISCLAIMER: While financial donations are helpful to any campaign, we do not relish the idea of perceived or expected favors to donors.  Given what we believe are our strengths and accomplishments, the Steptoe campaign opts not to accept individual or business monetary donations.  Instead, we prefer to work hard as we personally grind the pavement to earn your vote and your support.  We believe this approach allows us not only to retain the ethereal integrity of elected leadership (similar to the days of old) but, more importantly,  remain beholding only to the electorate Ward 5 citizen masses, our Ward 5 citizen issues and our Ward 5 concerns.  Of course this approach is more work but, it’s worth it.

 Meanwhile, thank you again for your support.  Our formal website w/more detailed candidate information is forthcoming. 

See you on the streets and in the neighborhoods of Ward 5!   Send/leave us a message if you wish to sign the petition and volunteer!
We will keep you apprised of any developments – this should be an interesting one to watch!

ANC 5B Loses Another FOIA Case And A Reconsideration Of Brookland”s Finest Liquor License

Can we please put all this to rest? Brookland Finest ABRA Hearing 8/14/2013. Photo courtesy of Frank Rettig.
Can we please put all this to rest? Brookland Finest ABRA Hearing 8/14/2013. Photo courtesy of Frank Rettig.

You may remember that ANC 5B lost a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case that forced ANC 5B to release the Exhibits associated with their vote to protest the Brookland’s Finest liquor license application. We recently got word that ANC 5B lost another FOIA case, also related to Brookland’s Finest.  The issue at the heart of this case is the April 2013 ANC 5B-04 meeting hosted by Carolyn Steptoe. For many neighbors this was the first chance to learn about the restaurant directly from the owners.That meeting, attended by well over 60 neighbors, was pretty bizarre as ANC meetings go and ended abruptly by Commissioner Steptoe after only one question was asked by the attendees. Many residents claim that Commissioner Steptoe was rude and dismissive to her constituents and the Brookland’s Finest team, and grew increasingly hostile when it was clear that the vast majority supported the restaurant. On the other hand, Commissioner Steptoe claimed that meeting attendees were disrespectful and mob-like towards her, and that is what prompted her to shut down the meeting; as documented by her postings on the Brookland listserv and a letter she wrote for the DC Watch website:

Recently, my single member district gathering to hear a presentation from an establishment about its liquor license application became so disruptive and unruly that the gathering was adjourned within the first hour.

Other than hearsay, the only documentation of what actually occurred is an audio recording Commissioner Steptoe made during the meeting. Realizing this recording could provide clarity to the situation, Brookland resident Conor Crimmins and the Brookland Bridge submitted FOIA requests to ANC 5B for the recording, both of which were denied. Mr. Crimmins decided to pursue the issue and took it court. The result, this summary judgment, requires Commissioner Steptoe to release the recording despite her contention that the recording was made with her personal device and therefore is her possession. An excerpt:

 “Given the plain meaning and intent of Freedom of Information Act, this argument is bewildering. Simply put, Defendant ANC 5B is a statutorily created entity which is part of the government of the District of Columbia. Commissioner Carolyn Steptoe is the Vice Chairperson of ANC 5B. In her official capacity as Commissioner of SMD 5B04 she held a public meeting concerning issues important to the people of her district. She recorded that meeting as required under the law and she referred to the recording in the exercise of her official duties. The law requires that she make that recording available to the public, and she will do so.”

We will attempt to get a hold of the recording and make it available to our readers.

Another blow to ANC 5B was delivered yesterday when their Motion for Reconsideration of the liquor license that was granted to Brookland’s Finest was denied by ABRA. (You can read ANC 5B’s  Motion here.) The ABRA Order denying the Motion stated that the arguments made in ANC 5B’s Motion were “conclusory, speculative, and without merit”.

Hopefully the FOIA case and the denied Motion will be the last attempt to throw roadblocks in the way of this neighborhood business. Commissioner Steptoe has sent an email to her distribution list saying that ANC 5B will not pursue further litigation on the matter.

Menomale, Brookland’s Finest Liquor Licenses, 901 Monroe Development – All Topics At SMD 5B-04 Meeting

About 10 days ago, we posted about this Saturday’s Single Member District 5B-04 Meeting, where it was announced that the managers/owners of a new restaurant, Brookland’s Finest, would present their case for a liquor license. Yesterday, we learned through an updated meeting agenda that quite a bit a more is in store. In addition to the new restaurant, the liquor license renewal for the super-popular Menomale is up for discussion as well as an update on the 901 Monroe Development project. This should be a very interesting meeting and we encourage those that are interested in development in the neighborhood to show up and voice your opinion. Here is an image of the meeting’s updated flyer:

5B 04 SMD Meeting April 27 2013

New Brookland Restaurant Seeks Liquor License & ANC Commissioner Seeks Input

There are have been rumblings that “something is coming” at the South West corner of 12th and Jackson Streets NE for some time now. We noted last summer that the space was on the market for sale or lease as a build to suit property, and that some preliminary construction was underway. We have recently learned that this space may become a restaurant called “Brookland’s Finest Bar and Kitchen”, serving American comfort food. Many Brooklanders, like me, who live near this intersection couldn’t be happier that finally something is happening with the eye-sore of a building. Some quick history – the property was originally split down the middle; one side was a church that met sporadically, the other half was being used as storage space for some type of backhoe company. Needless to say, this corner generated no foot traffic and just looked sad, so much so, that my wife and I convinced the previous owner to let us plant two trees on the property.

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Back to the restaurant. We learned via a series of communications from Single Member District 5B-04 Commissioner Caroline Steptoe that Brookland’s Finest Bar and Kitchen has applied for a liquor licence. As to be expected, Commissioner Steptoe is very interested in the community’s “thoughts, issues, concerns and/or compliments about this proposed establishment.” Neighbors that live closest to the proposed restaurant received a flyer at their home indicating that she especially wants to hear directly from them. A different, more generic, flyer has been posted throughout the blocks surrounding 12th and Jackson, on the Brookland listserv, and yet another message went out to Steptoe’s email list of constituents. All communications indicate that there will be a meeting where the community can give their input and hear a presentation from the restaurant owners and the owner of the property. We applaud Commissioner Steptoe for so thoroughly getting the word out through various  modes of delivery. The following was taken from her email to her constituents:

Excerpts from Executive Summary: “The goal of Brookland’s Finest Bar & Kitchen (Brookland’s) is to provide a neighborhood friendly casual dining and community bar atmosphere in the Brookland neighborhood…The business itself sits at 3126-3128 12th Street, NE . . . The lot area is approximately 5,000 sq. ft., and the restaurant, once complete, will have over 2,500 sq. ft of indoor space.  Brookland’s mission is to establish a quality food, bar and coffee program. . . The restaurant will have approximately 90 total seats combines.  This includes 45-50 dining room seats, 16-18 bar seats, approximately 6 outdoor bar seats, and approximately 25 outdoor dining seats. . . Brookland’s aim is to provide a casual dining and drinking atmosphere that’s conducive to social and business networking as well as being family friendly.”   

The meeting will be held on Saturday, April 27  at the office of ANC 5B, demountable trailer at 1322 Irving Street NE, from 12:00 – 3:00 pm. The presenters will be the restaurant’s Managing Members Tony Tomelden, Frank Hankins and John Solomon and the building owner Scott Evans. It should be noted that Tony and Scott both live in Brookland, near the restaurant location, and are great neighbors. For me, this is a very important factor in my support for the restaurant. We will be following this one closely and will post any updates as we have them.