Ruth O. Robinson, chief staff administrator of the D.C. City Council, abruptly resigned yesterday after a sharp encounter with Council Chairman Arrington Dixon, who chose her for the job eight months ago.
Robinson said she quit because Dixon wanted to dictate who she should choose to serve as her legislative assistant. Dixon said he accepted the resignation because several council members had "expressed . . .misgivings about the management" of Robinson's office.
Robinson, whose formal title was secretary to the council, was one of a handful of women paid the highest salary permitted for D.C. officials under civil service pay scales -- $50,112 a year.
The secretary is responsible for administering all council activities outside the legal field that are not directed by individual council members, including the filing, scheduling, printing and distribution of legislation.
Dixon said last night he would ask the council to appoint his executive assistant, John P. Brown Jr., as acting secretary until a permanent decision can be made.
Robinson was executive director of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission in the U.S. Labor Department when Dixon chose her for the council secretaryship last March.
Some council members protested at the time that they had not been adequately consulted on the selection. Questions were raised about the fact that Robinson and Dixon's wife, Sharon Pratt Dixon, taught at the same time at the Antioch College School of Law.
Robinson said she decided to leave after her legislative assistant, Virlyn Atkinson, was promoted to another council job and Dixon wanted to choose someone from outside as Atkinson's successor, Robinson said she wanted to promote another council staff member.
She submitted her resignation Thursday, to be effective Nov. 17. In her letter, she said it was "clearly obvious that a difference in managerial philosophy and style does exist" between her and Dixon. "I cannot and will not yield on principles . . ." she declared.
Yesterday Robinson said she was telephoned at home by Dixon at 8:20 a.m. and was told that "my presence in my office is no longer desired during the two-week period of transition." So she said, she went to the District Building and dictated a second letter ending her tenure last night.
She accused Dixon of violating council rules in asking her to sign a document designating a temporary successor, who presumably would have been John Brown.
Robinson said Dixon seemed angry during the telephone call. Dixon told a reporter, "That's not my normal posture," and added that he as council chairman "should have some voice in hiring" Robinson's legislative assistant.
Dixon circulated a memorandum to council members yesterday, saying he had accepted Robinson's immediate resignation, and noted "misgivings" voiced by council members of an unstated nature about her management of the office.
"I had hoped that this situation would improve . . . Unfortunately, this was not the case," Dixon wrote.