D.C. Banking Superintendent Edward D. Irons, who has been locked in a battle with area banks over their lending to low-income neighborhoods of the city, has resigned.

His departure follows an unsuccessful four-year effort to gain control of District banking activities, an effort that failed in part due to his lack of regulatory powers and disagreement over what his role should be. Irons said yesterday he is taking a job as dean of the business school at Clark Atlanta University, where he taught banking and finance before coming to Washington to join the Barry administration.

"This job has been a struggle from day one," Irons said. "And it will continue to be a struggle for my successor until the ambiguity between what the legislative and the executive branches want is clarified."

In recent weeks, Irons has been under fire from District institutions for his criticism of their lending practices. The banking superintendent released a report last month that suggested that out-of-state banks that moved into D.C. have failed to meet the community reinvestment commitments they made in exchange for the right to do business in the city.

Irons released data showing these banks have invested far more in housing in the city's predominantly white wards than they invested in predominantly black wards.

But the banks -- American Security, Citizens Bank of Washington, Dominion, Signet, Crestar and Sovran/D.C. National -- challenged Irons's study and said it lacked proper analysis.

Irons said yesterday his fight with the banks was not a factor in his resignation. He said his term expires in September and he did not wish to wait and see whether he would be reappointed by a new administration. He said he began negotiations with Clark Atlanta several months ago.

Irons came here in 1986, following the passage of the D.C. Interstate Banking Bill, which allowed out-of-state institutions to enter the District and established the D.C. Office of Banking and Financial Institutions to handle the large number of new bank charters and interstate banking applications that were anticipated.

But for the past four years, Irons's office -- which has a $600,000 annual budget -- has existed only on paper. There has been no flood of acquisitions of District banks by those from outside of Maryland and Virginia, and only a trickle of applications for new charters.

Moreover, the interstate banking bill's failure to provide Irons with the authority to act as superintendent rendered him ineffective and left him frustrated, Irons has said. In addition, the mayor and the D.C. council sharply disagreed about what Irons's responsibilities should include.

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In March, Irons introduced new legislation that would have clarified his role and given his office broadly expanded powers. However, that legislation has yet to be heard by the D.C. Council, which must approve the bill. Irons called the D.C. Interstate Banking Bill "terribly flawed" and said his successor "will have to work diligently trying to get the law brought up to speed so that he can be an effective regulator. That's the first priority."