A Valentine's Day work retreat for the D.C. Council ended with no love lost between Councilmen David Catania and Marion Barry after a flurry of expletives and insults triggered by the former mayor's stance on a hospital in Barry's Ward 8.
Moments after the District's chief financial officer concluded a presentation to legislators at a meeting room in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Barry tried to ask a question about United Medical Center, the troubled hospital the city took over in 2010.
Catania immediately unloaded.
"F you, Marion," Catania shouted before rising to his feet to continue the verbal brawl. "Your agenda is so transparent."
Catania went on to say Barry is "full of s--t" and "a despicable human being."
Barry's responses were largely drowned out -- and interrupted -- by Catania's verbal attacks as other lawmakers sought to quell the dispute. Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander tried to intervene by pointing out that a Washington Examiner reporter was in the room. Barry and Catania ignored the other legislators, including Council Chairman Kwame Brown.
Tuesday wasn't the first time Catania's anger has surfaced publicly. He openly fought with at-large Councilman Michael Brown last week about Internet gambling -- behavior Brown later characterized as "typical." And in September, Catania had a spat with at-large Councilman Phil Mendelson about the District's income tax.
Barry hammered Catania for Tuesday's episode.
"It's a well-known fact that David Catania does not intend to abide by the council's code of conduct," Barry told The Examiner. "It never has bothered me because I've had worse happen to me."
Barry charged that Catania's verbal daggers were racially motivated.
"David has a pattern of attacking black men," Barry said. "He's as vindictive as they come."
But Catania said Barry was also to blame and said he "absolutely" stood by his actions.
"I've hit my level of frustration. He's sworn at me many times," Catania said. "For him all of a sudden to be offended -- I'm offended ... by all of his antics."
Catania said he thinks Barry hasn't paid sufficient attention to the hospital. "Elvis has been seen more at United Medical Center than Marion Barry," he said.
Brown, who presided over the session along with a meeting facilitator, ignored repeated questions from The Examiner about the incident.
Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh said the encounter reflected that "people have individual personalities."
One longtime observer of D.C. politics said Tuesday's argument wasn't surprising.
"There's nothing new that happened today," said political consultant Tom Lindenfeld. "That relationship has been contentious."
The council's retreat, though, was slated as a quaint affair: a closed morning training session about the District's open meetings and ethics laws and a public discussion in the afternoon about city finances, accomplishments and goals.
Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser said the sparring didn't dilute the day's successes.
"We got a lot done," Bowser said.
And at-large Councilman Vincent Orange tried to end the day on a sweet note, passing out bags of Valentine's Day candy to his colleagues.