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Sitting Out Adams Morgan Day

As usual, the Madam's Organ ad in this week's City Paper lists the bands playing at the Adams Morgan blues bar. But tucked between the notices for piano man David Maxwell and reggae band One Night Stand is this announcement: "No Adams Morgan Day for Madam's Organ."

That's not just a tongue twister, but a statement of anger, frustration and principle by the club's owner, Bill Duggan. When the annual street festival unfolds this Sunday, drawing 20,000-plus visitors to take in all manner of ethnic eats, music from around the world and one of the city's best days of people-watching, Duggan plans for the first time to shutter his business. He is protesting both the District's increasingly tough regulation of street vending--he was ticketed and fined $4,000 last Adams Morgan Day because fire marshals said they will no longer permit the sidewalk grill from which Duggan has sold food at the festival for many years--and the leadership of the festival.

The president of Adams Morgan Main Street, Lisa Duperier, is the cause of most of Duggan's objections. Duperier actually agrees with Duggan that, as she puts it, "the city's regulation is growing exponentially; it almost makes you want to stop doing the festival."

But that's about all the two agree on. Duggan and a number of other Adams Morgan residents have grown concerned that Duperier's past may make her an unsuitable person to run the neighborhood group, which organizes the street fair, promotes Adams Morgan businesses and seeks improvements to the streetscape.

Duggan's gripe about Duperier centers on a case that has led to a congressional investigation and a court action that is still unfolding in New York. A wealthy Texas chemicals entrepreneur, Virgil Waggoner, alleges in the New York state suit that a law partner of ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani schemed to steal $10 million from Waggoner in an investment scam.

The lawsuit stems from an offshore investment scandal that the Senate Investigations subcommittee called a prime example of money laundering. In papers filed in the lawsuit, Waggoner alleges that Duperier persuaded him to invest $10 million in something called a "High Yield Investment Program." But when Waggoner went ahead with the investment, he says, he lost every penny he'd put in. The Senate committee report's study of the Waggoner investment and similar cases concludes that "rogue foreign banks and their criminal clients" defrauded American investors and "undermined the U.S. financial system."

Duperier is not named in the Senate report, nor is she a party to the lawsuit in New York. Waggoner's court papers say Duperier originally "enticed" him into "the sham off-shore investment" in 1996.

Duperier, like Waggoner a longtime Republican party activist and donor, has generally been welcomed since she became active in Adams Morgan business circles. D.C. Council member Jim Graham, who represents the neighborhood, wrote to Duggan saying that he was aware of the dispute but "somehow I had concluded it was all settled and musty."

Duperier says it's unfortunate that Duggan's bar won't take part in the street festival. She attributes his departure to his unhappiness about being given a smaller role in selecting the performers in the music portion of the festival.

She denies any wrongdoing in the Texas matter and emphasizes that "I'm not involved in the lawsuit. I haven't been sued. I don't have time to get into that because I have multiple sclerosis and colon cancer and I'm involved in very difficult treatments. All I can tell you is any lawyer anywhere can file anything."

On the Adams Morgan neighborhood listserv, where the Duggan-Duperier matter has been discussed periodically, Duperier wrote that she was not involved in the financial arrangements in the Waggoner investment and notes that the New York lawsuit was filed only after it became apparent that Giuliani was running for president. Giuliani is not named in the suit and had nothing to do with the case.

"This is America," Duperier wrote. "Innocent until proven guilty. But gee whiz ---
no one has sued me for any wrongdoing!!"

Meanwhile, Duggan, a mainstay of the 18th Street nightclub scene for decades, will sit out Sunday's festival. Duperier says he's welcome to return anytime. And for the first time, the festival this year will include seminars on Adams Morgan as an incubator and catalyst of small businesses--a great place to invest in.

By Marc Fisher |  September 12, 2008; 8:39 AM ET
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Comments

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Marc,

There's a big hole in your article. You never explain what Duggan's connection to the lawsuit is. Did he lose money in some way? Or are we supposed to infer that he is simply offended in general that Duperier was mentioned in a lawsuit alleging fraud?

Further, you just assert that Duggan's gripe has to do with the suit. You don't produce any quote from Duggan, or any other evidence.

Is this all based on some third-hand conversation you had with someone in a bar?

Posted by: Tom T. | September 12, 2008 10:57 AM

Tom T. - are you asking Marc to give his sources? He is usually sitting on his main source of info so he will need to stand up to reply.

Posted by: DC Voter | September 12, 2008 11:49 AM

Actually, with the NIMBY's moving in and with the stricter regulation, I wonder why anyone would want to do business in this town. The bridge and tunnel crowd moving into popular places like Dupont and 14th Street that----DUH! Have bars and restaurants--- and then complain about the noise. And don't get me started on "voluntary" agreements. What a sham! If this woman has all these medical problems, then its seems to be to be in her best health interest not to take on such stressful activities. I'll continue my support of Madams Organ--- And protest with them-- I'll be skipping AM Day this year.

Posted by: Disgusted In DC | September 12, 2008 3:30 PM

Disgusted in DC, it's worth remembering that people have moved into DC proper to work with all kinds of administrations since my parents moved here during the cold war and my neighbors on either side moved here during WW2.

It's also worth remembering that in Manhattan in 2008 the only cool people are bridge and tunnel people because Europeans bought up all the downtown condos as vacation spots, leaving funky artists' buildings empty 50 weeks out of the year.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 12, 2008 7:54 PM

Marc
I think the allegations in the lawsuit are far more damning than you portray them to be. Allegedly, Duperrier and her friend/boyfriend, Chuck Brazie set up the whole "investment" to defraud the now 81 year old Mr Waggoner, a man Duperrier described to me as "like a father to me". . He alleges that they stole the money and then, because he did not understand that they were connected, he relied on Duperrier to hire a law firm to help track the money..He also alleges that the law firm, while supposedly trying to track down Brazie, represented Brazie before the Senate money laundering investigations...Duperrier and Brazie even collected about $200,000 for "professional services" from the law firm to, if the allegations in the suit are to be believed, find themselves...since they were at the heart of the fraud.......
And now, these 2 people just happen to show up here in Adams Morgan to work together in non-profit organizations....non-profits that handle a boatload of money I should add
....Brazie is even head of security for the Adams Morgan Day festival!! A guy who is personally named in a Senate report on money-laundering!!!! Are we nuts?
Come on....yes, in the USA everyone is innocent until proven guilty...and I hope that all of these allegations are not true...but they smell bad, real bad.... and until there is a credible explanation from these 2, they should resign or be removed from any and all positions of leadership.
Incidentally, I have been personally telephoned by Asa Hutchison,
former congressman and DEA Chief. He called at the request of Mr. Waggonner, the victim, his longtime friend. He called to say that he believes that all of the allegations are true and to say that, because he believes that his friend has been so callously wronged by people he trusted, he has agreed to become co-counsel on behalf of Mr Wagonner.
The allegations against Duperrier and Brazie are are, in the words of one of their fellow board members at Adams Morgan Mainstreet, "scorching".
Our neighborhood, Adams Morgan deserves better than these 2.


Posted by: Bill Duggan | September 13, 2008 11:54 AM

"Duperier, like Waggoner a longtime Republican party activist and donor, has generally been welcomed since she became active in Adams Morgan business circles."

Funny, I never see Democratic party affiliations announced like this in the POST articles. I guess the Republicans are just special.

Posted by: TWOTIMETUNA | September 13, 2008 4:14 PM

All this might be put to rest if there was a verified AUDIT of Adams Morgan Main Street. Look it's not a crime to rip someone off in an off-shore bank pyramid scheme - even when it's $10 million. And if Lisa Duperier and Charles "Chuck" Brazie did it is just shows how clever they are. To read all the details see http://www.politico.com/static/PPM42_carusocomplaint.html
But the DC City Government has an obligation to conduct a verifiable audit that tracks the tens of thousands of dollars in public funds, along with all the money raised using the name and the streets of "Adams Morgan." Instead there are only excuses that Lisa Duperier is to weakened by her illness to comply. Even though she’s not even the treasurer of Adams Morgan Main Street – but as it turns out controls all the books. I’d have more sympathy for her, if, she while fighting cancer she was not also actively working against the DC Tobacco ban. http://www.smokersclubinc.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=4128

Posted by: Adams Morgan Resident | September 13, 2008 8:14 PM

I'm still not clear on how we got from complaints over regulation of an outdoor grill to a federal fraud case involving Asa Hutchinson, but maybe I'm just slow 'cause I drank too much last night.
Whatever.
Twotimetuna- The city is overwhelmingly D, so it's notable that R's would be welcomed into business and political circles. I'd guess that's why it's mentioned.

Posted by: Downtown Rez | September 14, 2008 11:08 AM

As an entrepreneur who has enjoyed a fruitful business association with Bill Duggan for years, including participation in numerous Adams Morgan Day festivals, I attest that Duggan's motivation in this matter and in Adams Morgan community affairs in general stems largely from a shockingly altrustic vision of neighborhood concern and positive involvement. Any comment to impugn Duggan's
well-considered decision to abstain from participation in this year's festival as self-serving is baseless. Bill Duggan has authored more uncredited good deeds for Adams Morgan and its people than could ever be enumerated here.
Bob Perilla
Big Hillbilly Bluegrass

Posted by: bob perilla | September 15, 2008 8:15 PM

Local Adams Morgan activists and ANC members have asked Jim Graham for an offical audit of AM MainStreet,because they receive DC funds. The councilmember balked at the request. He also used AM Mainstreet to launder council money ermarked for victims of the Avalon aprtment fire -- then Graham passed emergency legislation to end the need for a audit of Non-profits who receive ermarks.

Maybe the councilmember is not the progressive he claims to be.

Posted by: DC Pleeaz! | September 16, 2008 3:48 PM

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