MOST DISCUSSIONS of the revolving door foscus on federal employes leaving government service for private practice. But it can heppen in city government, too. And the revolving door can be more visible in a local setting.
For the past five years, Kirk White was the well-respected and hard-working mainstay of the District of Columbia's Municipal Planning Office, responsible for making the major zoning and planning recommendations of the city government.
Now he has become a partner in the Washington office of Linowes and Blocher, a law firm best known for representing developers in Montgomery County and now in the District of Columbia. The firm's senior partner, R. Robert Linowes, is president of the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade.
Whit's shift plainly worries a number of leaders of community groups trying to limit commercial development of such areas as Dupont Circle and Capitol Hill.
In the Dupont Circle area, for instance, Linowes and Blocher represents the zoning committee of the Washington Board of Realtors who oppose a community proposal to downgrade commercial zoning around the circle' - a proposal that was brought before the firm's newest partner, Kirk White, while he worked for the city government.
"He has a lot of inside information about our case that Linowes and Blocher would not necessarily have," said Margaret Cameron Tessier, a Federal government lawyer herself who is chairman of the North Dupont Circle Community Association.
"He had been an arbitrator up 'til now, holding private meetings with both sides. But if he immediately turns around and becomes one of the sides it seems to me a bit unethical," added Ward Bucher, an architect and planner who is active in Dupont Circle community affairs.
White, though, rejected charges that he walked off his city job with inside information that would help his law firm. "If that were the case, I certainly wouldn't use it," he said. "But it certainly does not pertain."
He said he had discussed possible conflicts of interst with Fred Grabowski, the D.C. Bar counsel in charge of lawyer discipline. He said Grabowski, who is out of town on vacation, told him the canons of professional responsibility would bar him from participating in any case involving specific pieces of property that he had dealt with in a major way while a government employe.
White said Grabowski told him there is no ban on his taking cases involving planning and zoning of large areas such as Dupont Circle even though he had dealth with those areas as a government worker.
On the Dupont Circle zoning. White said, "I will play a general advisory role in the firm, but will not apear in the case" when the Zoning Commission opens hearings today on the proposal.
There have been stricter interpretations of the bar's canons of professional responsibility on the possible conflicts of interest that arise from a lawyer leaving government for private practice.
There is, for example, Canon 9, which says, "A lawyer should avoid even the appearance of professional impropriety." A Federal Communications Commission administrative law judge brought up that canon in the case of a former FCC lawyer, now in private practice, who refused to say if he had any dealings with a case involving a present client while he worked for the government.
Just last month the Cleveland-Washington firm of Jones Day Reavis & Pogue offered to "build a wall" to isolate two lawyers in the Washington office who formerly had been high officials in the Justice Department's antitrust division from both income and information in a massive uranium price fixing case.
Nonetheless, a U.S. judge in Chicago indicated he was cool to Jones Day taking the case because of the potential conflict and Westinghouse, the firm's client, had to find another lawyer.
White, though, said he doesn't feel the elaborate wall that jones Day was willing to throw up around its former government attorneys is required for him in zoning matters such as the Dupont Circle case.
All of which led Richard Wolf, a lawyer who is active in the Capitaol Hill Restoration Society, to say. "I'm uneasy. It's clearly an issue in this city where citizen groups are array against the D.C. government and the developers."
That controversial plan to reorganize the goverment's 19,750 attorneys has moved to the White House. Word at the Federal Bar Association's meeting was that James T. McIntyre Jr. head of the Office of Management and Budget, had signed them and passed them on to the White House.
Royce Lambeth of the U.S. Attorney's Office here, who is working on the reorganization for the Justice Department, said Attorney General Griffin Bell is impressed with the plan, which retains Justice as the major trial lawyer for most government agencies - much to the dismay of the agency general counsels.
Judy Areen, who has headed the lawyer reorganization task force, said the White House may announce management changes - such as a council of general counsels to coordinate the government't legal efforts - this fall. But the all important turf battle over whether Justice will continue as the government's chief courtroom lawyer needs Congressional approval and so will not be announced until next year.
Short takes: Calvin J. Collier, once the youngest chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, which he left in November, has become a partner in Hughes, Hubbard & Reed. He had been a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute . . . Carole Wilson, formerly with the Labor Department and the National Labor Relations Board, has been named associate general counsel of the International Union of Electrical Workers.
More than 200 experienced lawyers turned up looking for jobs at a Legal Services Corp. workshop . . . Randall W. Scott is leaving the Environmental Law Institute to run the federally-financed American Bar Association's new study on finding ways to make it easier to resolve landlord-tenant arguments . . . Alexandria Bar Assocation is now starting a lawyer referral service . . . George Washington University Law Association gave its professional achievement award to William G. Malone, assistant general counsel of the Veterans Administration.