Mayor Marion Barry increased his personal payroll budget March 14 by $22,672 -- enough to fund a GS-11 position -- two weeks after he ordered a hiring freeze throughout city government.
Spokesmen for Barry said yesterday that the increase was taken from federal funds and is being applied to the salary of former radio and television host Sara Vass, who was hired on Nov. 28 to work as a "special events coordinator" at the D.C. Commission on Arts and Humanitites. The hiring freeze does not affect the use of federal funds.
It is not clear why there was a three-month lag in adding the funds to the mayor's personnel budget. The increase follows statements by Barry that he has faced cutbacks in his own office such as those he is asking of other department heads as part of a plan to stave off a potential $172.4 million deficit by Sept. 30.
The net effect of the March 14 budget change increased the mayor's "full-time continuing" personnel budget from $757,100 to $778,004.
The increase also follows Barry's decision to grant pay raises or promotions to five of his top assistants on Feb. 25, four days before the hiring freeze took effect. The annual cost of those increases was about $10,000 and included a $2,500 pay boost to Barry's top assistant and political adviser, Ivanhoe Donaldson.
This latest increase of $22,672 showed up this week on a computer printout from the city's new financial management system. A copy was made available to The Washington Post.
"The authority for doing this [increase] came strictly from the mayor and was done in January or maybe December," Donaldson said. "The [budget] transfer may have happened on the 14th [of March]; but the action was taken prior [to the freeze]."
The payroll money was drawn from the "governor's grant" account under the federally-funded Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) program, according to the city's computer program. The description for the funding category was "classroom vocational education wages."
Several officials disputed that the increase was drawn from CETA funds. "The office of the mayor has no CETA employes because he is an elected official," said deputy press secretary Kwame Holman.
"It didn't come from a CETA account," said Donaldson.
However, the computer document shows the "revenue source" for the funds to be "CETA Intradistrict."
A D.C. Department of Labor spokesman, Adolph Slaughter, said the governor's grant funds do fall under the CETA program, but they allow a higher degree of discretion in how they are used.
The use of CETA funds to pay salaries in the offices of elected officials is a sensitive subject to D.C. officials. The U.S. Department of Labor ordered the District last summer to repay $1.4 million in CETA funds that had been used improperly to pay staff salaries on the D.C. City Council from 1975 to 1977.
Reached at the arts commission, Vass said that she is "part of the office of the mayor, but I work out of the D.C. arts commission." She said the job was discussed with her last September, "but I was not put as they say on board until Nov. 28."
A former WHFS disc jockey and an occasional co-host of the television talk show Panorama, Vass said that her duties include organizing the first annual mayor's award on art later this year and a week of cultural events surrounding Soccer Bowl '80 scheduled for September.