Remember the Whole Brookland’s Finest liquor license application Saga? Check out the Latest

Brookland’s Finest future home at 12th and Jackson Street, NE

From an email:

“Attached is a DC Superior Court decision handed down yesterday. I represented the plaintiff in the case. The case is a FOIA case – one of my practice areas.

The bottom line is that An ANC Commissioner got caught trying to delete a digital public document (an audio recording of an SMD meting) rather than produce it in compliance with a court order.

As a result:

The court referred the matter to both the DOJ and OAG for criminal prosecution of Commissioner Carolyn Steptoe for perjury and for attempted destruction of a public record.

The court found ANC 5B in contempt and ordered it to pay for the cost to hire a forensic computer firm to recover the audio file Commissioner Steptoe tried to delete.

The case arose from the controversy over the Brookland’s Finest liquor license application. My client asked ANC 5B for documents that Commissioner Steptoe gave to her colleagues that she said supported her position that ANC 5B should oppose the license application. My client also sought a copy of the audio recording Commissioner Steptoe made of her April 27, 2013 SMD meeting.

At a march 19, 2014 evidentiary hearing, Commissioner Steptoe testified that she denied my client’s FOIA requests because she did not like the requesters and thought their requests were “rude.”

In the end, ANC 5B was forced to produce all of the documents.”

You can read the full ruling below:

Crimmins v DC Final Order (PDF)

I have heartburn just reading this, can’t imagine actually being involved in it. And in happier news – can’t wait for Brookland’s Finest to finally be able to open soon!!

59 Comment

  • This is brilliant…

  • Sweet justice. I hope this can serve as a shot across the bow for the other malfeasing ANC reps in this city.

  • I just love this…I love this so much.

  • justinbc

    “Tried to delete…” lol, oh technology.

  • I, for one, cannot WAIT to buy a beer here.

  • a) I can’t wait for this place to open!
    b) She is a whole lot of crazy. Voting against her in the primary was my top priority as a WARD 5 resident.

    • +1000 Go Kenyan!

    • Yeah. She is horrible. She reported me and my roommates to Catholic University for throwing parties without ever having spoken a word to us. Thanks for the concern, but none of us have ever been a student at Catholic University and have never thrown a party at our house. Not all white people are drunken college students invading your neighborhood!

  • Just fantastic. If you can, PoP (or OP), please post the November 1, 2013 (though it says 2014) order that discusses the merits.

  • Very interesting. And on a minor side note: someone should have proofread that ruling. It keeps on referring to a court order that took place on “November 1, 2014.”

  • I’m a little disconerted by so many reference to dates in 2014 that haven’t happened yet. Be that as it may, what a vile person this Steptoe woman is. Hope she gets prosecuted for something. Oops – I can’t say that. I might be on her jury. Too much prior knowledge.

  • Oh my god. It’s time to consider ANC reform at the council-level, I think. Why should this barely-elected person and her board have so much control over people’s livelihoods and the development of this city? Cliche alert: it’s a free country, with free markets. And hyperbole alert: these people have fascistic tendencies.

    • Agreed. Individuals who end up on these small neighborhood groups are the people who tend to be micromanaging control freaks. People who have “better things to do” are either working their butt off in their career or running for higher office.
      A neighborhood group shouldn’t have so much influence that can veto a business simply by fiat. The ANC representative’s recommendation should only be one part of a larger decision making process at a higher level in the municipal government.

      • Mr. Poon,

        Do some research. The ANC cannot veto anything. ANC commissioners can speak as individuals (just like any other citizen) or as an ANC as a whole. Individual opinion is nothing more than that – an opinion. The written opinion of an ANC body as a whole to a District agency requires “Great Weight” – which means that the city agency to which the opinion is directed must consider the ANC’s opinion and respond accordingly. The District is by no means bound to follow the opinion of an ANC Commission. Case in point, the restaurant/bar in question. Despite the ANC protest (that certain members of the community supported), the establishment got its license.

        ANCs are hard-working, volunteer community servants whose main job is to hear their fellow community members gripes, complaints, suggestions, etc. and try to help to make the community a better place. The bulk majority of their work is thankless, and their are often the first people to whom residents complain.

        In this case, the Commissioner put herself in a bad place. She should have handed the recording over or, at least, protected it. She probably should never have held the meeting in the first place, as is by no means a requirement to do so. (The only requirement is that the ANC hold 9 public meetings each year).

        As far as extrapolating this case to the 300 some ANC’s of the District – sorry, not exemplary of the good work these people do.

        • I can’t tell if this is serious. Are you saying that this episode hasn’t been an obstacle for someone attempting to open a legitimate business in the District? Or that this woman’s opinions about gentification haven’t affected the owners’ livelihoods? I’m active in my community and I understand how these so-called voluntary agreements work. I’ve dealt with my ANC before, and I understand who’s on them and what they do quite well. This is a travesty, and that they have any power at all is a farce.

        • I should also note that I’m not proposing the abolition of the ANC’s, only removing whatever power they have to coerce local businesses into entering voluntary agreements, and removing any legal weight that their intial opinions about new businesses may have. I’m sure all these people are quite lovely.

          • there are many obstacles to opening a business. a settlement agreement was formalized in this case outside the ANC – but that is only because the ANC permits the community to have some say in the liquor license process. otherwise businesses wouldn’t engage in that process. don’t worry, ABRA is in the business of issuing liquor licenses. still, I think it’s fine that the community has a means to have some say in the conduct of establishments serving alcohol in their hoods.

          • gotryit

            Mr. Poon, think about the flip side. Sometimes there are businesses that crap on a neighborhood, and the ANC’s suggestion to ABRA is one of the only ways that the community can push back.
            It really comes down to electing reasonable people, not power tripping loons (no offense to the bird). I make it a point to let my ANC person know that I support most businesses coming into the area, and only object if there’s a specific reason.

          • pwedz: I get that there are a lot of obstacles, but the opinion of a person elected by, what, 1000 people? shouldn’t really be one of those obstacles in a reasonable municipality. If you check boxes and do the work, I think you should be able to open a benign retail establishment.
            gotryit: Fair point, but why not just legislate against crapping on a neighborhood? Why is this process that we have in place, where we judge the worthiness of a business before it’s ever opened the best one? Seems a little Panglosian to me, no? Lastly, how many businesses getting liquor licenses in this city today are crapping on neighborhoods? My hunch is a slim minority. The city’s changing, and the process should probably reflect that.

          • Mr. Poon – Each ANC Commissioner represents approx. 2k people.

          • Except that Ms. Steptoe prides herself on representing only the “200-footers” who are most directly impacted geographically to the proposed business. She conveniently ignores the rest of her constituency.

          • it wasn’t the opinion of just one. she has a base. we all here at PoP might not agree with that base, but they put her in office. likewise, a group of citizens filed a lawsuit against the bar too – so she did not go this completely alone. all part of the process. Commissioner Steptoe has also been on the “right side” of several fights too. The local school (Burroughs) would be a charter now if it wasn’t for her efforts on that cause – and I’m not at all convinced it would have been better for that. if the community as a whole doesn’t want her next time around, then a better candidate needs to step it up and get her out. I still maintain, no basis at all to bar DC’s ANCs from being a part of the liquor license/zoning/city services picture.

      • Don’t forget, a lot of the same people go on to try and be mayor and do the same thing on a much larger scale

  • FYI, I walked by there yesterday and it looks like they’re laying a foundation for a sweet patio for the walk up bar. OPEN, OPEN, OPEN, OPEN

  • Wow, how stupid can you be? Hard drives don’t actually erase when you hit the “erase” button, you moron.
    Honestly, what does Steptoe have in this fight? Why commit perjury to stop a restaurant/bar from opening up? Does her grandma go to the church in the area that’s opposing this bar?
    Her vendetta seems extremely personal and excessive. There’s got to be more to this story.

    • It’s pretty clear that this is an attack on the “new residents” veiled with religious, anti-alcohol, and NIMBY language. Steptoe’s known to drink in the bar across the street, and most of the arguments in the various hearings were ludicrous to the point of insanity, such as claims that the patrons of the new restaurant would “photograph neighbors’ children” for lewd and malicious purposes.

      • The video of her on that WCP piece about the 901 Monroe development also happens to contain an awful lot of racially-loaded talk, so there’s that too.

    • “Wow, how stupid can you be? Hard drives don’t actually erase when you hit the “erase” button, you moron.”
      Come on, you actually have to be fairly computer-literate to know this. Not knowing it hardly means you’re stupid or a moron.

    • Honestly? It simply sounds like she’s not that bright. Refusing to provide (and then delete) audio recording of a public meeting seems rather idiotic regardless of her actual reason for opposing the liquor license.

    • But MD church ladies need their parking!!!!

      • But this is the thing – how is this place going to impede Sunday morning church goers? They will still have their precious parking, Brookland’s Finest won’t effect that at all.

  • Favorite Word of the day: contumacious (p.4)

  • Haaaaa! Good for TonyT!

  • Can we get someone who knows to explain who this person is and why she did this. Is she unwell? Is she some sort of self-appointed check on gentrification? This sounds like sweet justice but must be more to the story.

    • I think she would have been a great replacement for Bowser on the council. Bummer she only got 6% of the vote.

      • I believe she actually ran against Kenyan McDuffie, no? 2:37, I live in her SMD. I think “self-appointed check on gentrification” is a pretty accurate description based on what I’ve seen from her. And I don’t think she’s unwell – just a little drunk with power, less than rigorous in understanding her power and duties as ANC rep, and perhaps not the shiniest glass on the wine rack.

    • Commissioner Steptoe is a self-appointed check on things she does not like. Her first foray into “defending” Brookland was in opposing the most recent attempt to designate Brookland an historical district. Get on the Brookland listserve and you will see her amazing exploits. Her main argument was that historical designation is a way to keep black people from putting in vinyl windows.

      She opposed this liquor license even though she supported the liquor license for an establishment literally across the street. An establishment that had bona fide complaints from neighbors, a stop work order for unauthorized construction, and other issues.

      Steptoe is just the most high profile of a number of folks in BRookland, and other neighborhoods, who think they are speaking for the silent majority and literally oppose every single development.

      • Why the heck would anyone want Brookland designated as a historic district?! Oy vey…

      • gotryit

        This is why people need to pay attention to (and get involved in) their ANC elections. Otherwise, the crazies get in…

      • Add white people and gays to the list of things that Steptoe does like in her neighborhood. Also, she had the tacit support of most of her fellow ANC5B commissioners. The other commissioners need to answer for their actions, too. It’s been an ugly year for ANC5B.

      • Add white people and gays to the list of things that Steptoe does not like in her neighborhood. Also, she had the tacit support of most of her fellow ANC5B commissioners. The other commissioners need to answer for their actions, too. It’s been an ugly year for ANC5B.

        • Not true. Steptoe was very supportive of Little Ricky’s, an establishment that serves alcohol and is owned and run by a gay white man.. Go ask him yourself. If you really knew what you are talking about you’d know that the same attorney who brought the FOIA suit against Steptoe is a former ANC who held up B-Café’s liquor license for several years. YEARS!! And what actions do the other commissioners need to answer for? Because they supported her protest action in deference. Big whoop. Get over it. Just because they voted for something you don’t like or agree with doesn’t mean they have to answer to anything other than the democratic process that occurs every two years. How about you run if they are so terrible?

          • This is yesterday’s news, pwedz, so I’m not sure that you’ll see this, but I think it’s worth discussing civics here. Just because things are democratic don’t make them fair. Even if this corrupt Steptoe character has a majority on her side, so what? Why should her biases — seemingly based on a “rude” application — be taken into account when deciding what businesses can open and what businesses can’t? What if it were a black-owned business in a white neighborhood? Or a Jewish-owned business in a Christian county? Or an evangelical-owned business in Manhattan? It seems to me that the prospective prevention of retailers from opening based on these so-called merits is profoundly un-American. If this business causes whatever problems these people in the community are worried about, we can simply address it then. That this board has a scintilla of authority to prevent a retailer from opening is something that we all ought to question. Why is there a right for this neighborhood group to veto a legitimate business from opening? That the process is democratic is meaningless. I’d love to discuss this more off PoP if you’re willing.

  • Good. I hope she has the integrity to step down after this, but I doubt it. If not, I look forward to voting against her in the fall.

    Still, having listened to the recording it seems only fair to note that Ms. Steptoe wasn’t the only one at the meeting behaving badly. It seems that a lot of folks who came to the three-hour meeting decided that she was being far too slow about getting to the topic that most interested them. I mean, really? In addition to the general heckling, one person asked if Steptoe could get on with it (meaning the BF portion of the meeting) because it was the woman’s wedding anniversary. Adjourning the meeting was a clear overreaction to this boorish behavior, but still.

    • Well, also to be fair, I believe that the Brookland’s Finest presentation was first on the agenda, but when Steptoe saw how many people arrived to participate she unilaterally moved it to the end of the line.

    • The agenda of the meeting was made public. A lot of people went to the meeting because of the BL, whether they were for, against, or undecided. The public pre distributed agenda had BL first on the list. Now I hate when people leave after only what they are interested in. But you said to be fair, so to be fair everyone there was under the assumption this was the first topic. Steptoe to made it pretty clear in the beginning about switching the agenda, listen to the recording. Then dragged on about everything. I know this because I attended many meetings beforehand. She always tried to move quickly prior. It was her tactic to frustrate and put the BL owners and followers in a hostile mood. And you could say it worked a bit.

      Steptoe is a fraud, she believes she stands for those without a voice but she in tern hurts the one she try’s to protect. Because of her ridiculous actions I would say there was even blind support for the bar. Leaving people to be snickered and laughed at, at the ABRA hearing. No matter how ridiculous and absurd some of the complaints were, some did not act kindly.

      Steptoe has lost her voice and her neighborhood. I’m sure she feels funny walking around BLand. I want to see support for BL when it opens as because all the muck Steptoe has created BF will have some competition upon opening. They fought the fight for everyone else. More power to them, and success.

  • The level of stupid on that is pretty hefty.

  • You know what…this story about Brookland Finest has gone absolutely crazy. This lady (whether you like her or not) has been voted into this position several times. If her constituents had a problem with her, they wouldn’t continue to vote her into office. To read the hateful comments of people being excited about having her criminally prosecuted for destroying her own property is just insane. She has every right to state her opinion. Great weight is giving to the Commission, not the Commissioner. Ten years ago when all of you gentrifiers were attending college in another state, she was here fighting for her community. Now the “new people” are happy to see that a black woman, who supports long term residents, could potentially be arrested or have a record. All in the name of having a beer – just crazy. It really makes one think that this is more than fighting to open a neighborhood pub to go have a nice, cold beer or an easy distraction from others racist tendencies coming to rear its ugly head. You all should be ashamed of yourselves. Racism is alive and well in 2014 and DC.

    • While I don’t agree with you’re appraisal of the situation, I’ll say this: Even if it was true that Ms. Steptoe’s detractors were motivated by racial hatred, it would not excuse her actions. Ms. Steptoe is in her present predicament because she made two decisions: (1) to destroy a public record which she was instructed to preserve by the DC Office of the Attorney General, and (2) to lie about destroying the record to a judge of the DC Superior Court. Ms. Steptoe alone is responsible for her actions.

    • If anyone was motivated by racial animus, it was Steptoe. It’s pretty clear that she opposed the restaurant solely because of the (white) clientele she thought it would attract. She’s pathetic and is getting what she deserves. Or do you think that the judge is racist, too?

  • I’m not sure the judge was correct on this. Consider the facts. Thereis no precedence for smd meetings being official government proceedings. There is no requirement that the meetings be memorialized. And most importantly in my mind, the recording and the equipment used to make it were Personal property; they did not belong to the anc. Think about the stretching in his reasoning.

    • Considering that you’re wrong about what’ s most important in your mind, the rest of your analysis is dubious. Courts have held over and over again that government officials can’t use private email accounts to get around public records laws. What’s the difference here?

    • But even if a judge was wrong, there is a LEGAL way to deal with that: by filing an appeal to the DC Court of Appeals. Perjury is a crime regardless of the merits of the case or the correctness of the Judge’s decision.

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