On Oct. 29, I reported to you that the United States Olympic Committee distributes only three copies of its annual financial report; one each to the president of the United States, the vice president and the speaker of the House of Representatives.
When a reporter asks for a copy, he is told that the only way to get one is to ask one of the nation's three highest officials for permission to look at his copy. When that request is made of these officials, the reporter is informed that he will be permitted to look at the documents and accompanying tables of complicated figures, but that he will not be permitted to copy or photograph them.
On about the same date that I was informing you of what I had encountered, the USOC began a rather intensive fund-raising campaign that caused several readers to send the committee copies of my columns on the subject together with requests for comment. D.H. Freeman of Annapolis took a different tack.
On Oct. 29, Freeman wrote to Vice President Mondale and requested a copy of the current USOC financial statement.
Sixteen days later, on Nov. 14, he wrote again. This time his letter said: "On 29 October I requested the financial statement of the United States Olympic Committee.
"In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, you are required to respond to my request within 10 days. You have not obeyed the law in that I have received no response. Do you intend to obey the law?"
If district Liner Freeman informs me that he has received a response, or if any of those who wrote to the USOC inform me of responses, I will report to you promptly. Meanwhile, don't hold your breath. Congress has voted to give the USOC matching funds for the money it raises from the public, but has required no public disclosure of a financial report. WATER BILLS REVISITED
A few days ago, I passed along a letter from Martha Stewart that told of her attempts to get a water bill from the District of Columbia. After she waited from Sept. 16 to Nov. 12 without getting a response, I suggested that Martha should be patient because "only four weeks" had elapsed and the Water Department's computer runs on slow electricity.
I didn't catch the blooper. No copy editor caught it. No proofreader caught it. And the only reader who reacted was B.E. Cooper of Hyattsville, who wrote:
"I have finally figured out why my wife and I did not receive our Nov. 1 check from Social Security. They must be using your abacus. I noticed in this morning's column that it has only been four weeks since Sept. 16."
My cordless abacus went into retirement the day Scott Chase took over the Children's Hospital fund-raising campaign on Dec. 1, 1979, which by my computation was about 17 1/2 years ago. As soon as I learn to operate a pocket calculator I will try to avoid such stupid errors.
Meanwhile, Ken Douse has also filed a report on his adventures with the Water Department. He writes:
"I have been trying since July to get a water bill, calling every week or two and always being told the bill would be arriving 'next month.'
"Several times the explanation was offered that the computer had broken down.A few days ago, a clerk said I'd get a bill in December. Should I keep hoping or just forget it?"
A real estate management company that handles the water bills for several properties doesn't want to be identified because it is afraid its problems will multiply if it reveals what's been going on. "Past due" bills arrive on accounts for which the company has canceled checks that prove the bills were paid, and are not past due. Attempts to obtain bills are ignored for months and sometimes for years; then, when a bill finally arrives, it carries heavy penalities for late payment. A small building that uses less than $200 worth of water a year was billed for $6,042.
Inasmuch as Mayor Barry has already initiated action to improve this situation, I think we ought to be as patient as possible and give the District a chance to work its way out of the mess. We didn't get into it overnight and we won't get everything straightened out overnight.
Bob Orben sees Abscam as an indication of how bad inflation has become. He points out, "Two-bit politicians now cost $50,000."