Because it did not appropriate money sought by the city, Congress must share blame for the failure of the D.C. Department of Human Resources to enforce a 1977 law regulating group homes. City Council member David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1) declared yesterday.
Clarke made the statement to reporters after announcing that he and three other council members would sponsor legislation to advance the dates for mandatory installation of smoke detectors in such homes.
Under a law that took effect last year, detectors must be installed in privately owned groups homes by June 20, 1981, and in government-owned homes by June 20, 1980. Clarke and the others proposed that the deadlines be moved up to Jan. 1, 1980.
Clarke, chairman of the council's Judiciary Committee, represents the neighborhood where nine women died early April 11 in a fire in a privately owned for St Elizabeths Hospital outpatients.
Two days ago, Mayor Marion Barry reprimanded Albert P. Rsso, the human resources director , for failure to enforce the law regulating such homes.
When Clarke was pressed yesterday for his own judgment of blame, he refused at first, then said that Congress was partly at fault for failing to appropriate money requested by then-Mayor Walter E. Washington and the City Council.
Gladys Mack, assistant city administrator and budget director, confirmed Clarke's statement.
She said the city sought the money in its supplemental budget request for the 1978 fiscal year and its amendment to the budget request for the current 1979 fiscal year, but neither request was seriously considered.
Two requests currently are pending-a supplemental budget request for the current 1979 fiscal year, now in the process of being forwarded to Congress, and the proposed fiscal 1980 budget, now the subject of Senate appropriations hearings.
The amount being sought for 1980 is $352,400, which would pay for 18 employes.
If the initial request had been approved by Congress, Mack said, the city could have hired the needed workers by September 1978.
The request for a 1979 amended budget was held up at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget until it was too late for consideration last year by the House of Representatives, Mach said.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate D.C. Appropriations Subcommittee, declined to consider the request, along with several other procedurally similar items. He suggested that they should be made part of the regular 1980 budget, which is now being considered.
Barry told a news conference Thursay that the lack of funding was no excuse for failure to enforce the group home law.
"Even without funds, I think DHR should have mobilized the resource it had and put them to work on this problem," the mayor said.
Cosponsors of the proposed smoke detector law amendment with Clarks are John L. Ray and Betty Ann Kane (both D-At Large), Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3) and Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8).
The measure also would permit the mayor to rearrange the assignment of inspection and enforcement powers of city laws and regulations that are now scattered among several municipal agencies. The mayor has criticized existing asignment of powers as archaic, and has ordered increased coordination.