The D.C. government, despite strong objection from labor leaders, has hired a business lobbyist who was a principal author of the city's new workers' compensation law to help administer the law when it takes effect this summer.
Bruce Eanet, a lobbyist for the legislative-fiscal bureau of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, is to begin work Monday as a $45,000-a-year consultant in the D.C. Department of Employment Services.
In 1979, Eanet wrote a lobbying paper for the Board of Trade that became the basis of sweeping changes in the city's laws affecting the payment of insurance claims to injured workers.
Passage of the law a year later, in modified form, was hailed by business groups, who claimed that the city's previous laws were too generous and drove up the cost of doing business in Washington.
"It's like placing the fox in charge of the chicken coop," Joslyn Williams, president of the Greater Washington Central Labor Council, said yesterday. "He wrote the law. His sentiments lie with the employers. Not only does the city change the law to the detriment of the workers, it hires the chief architect to administer it."
Williams, who said he thought the appointment had been canceled two weeks ago, was visibly angered when a reporter asked him about the appointment yesterday and marched directly into the office of City Administrator Elijah B. Rogers to complain. After meeting with Rogers and Mayor Marion Barry, Williams told a reporter, "The appointment was stopped."
City officials said later in the day, however, that although Eanet would not be hired for the original job as head of the workers' compensation office he would be hired as a consultant. The officials said the change had nothing to do with the labor leaders' objections.
Eanet told a reporter early yesterday that although he did not know what his title would be, he had been hired "to help implement the new law" and planned to be on the job Monday.
He said he was not aware of any dispute about his position and understood that he was being given a civil service job, not a consultant's post.
Ivanhoe Donaldson, acting director of employment services, said Eanet would handle a variety of jobs, including issues of unemployment compensation, worker safety rules and minimum wage laws.
Mattie Taylor, a deputy director of the department, said she had recommended Eanet for the position "because he was so highly qualified in his knowledge of the workers compensation legislation."
With Rogers and Donaldson on the line, Taylor told a reporter in a telephone interview that the appointment was approved by Donaldson but not cleared through Rogers, who oversees selections for top city posts.
She said a letter sent to Eanet offering him the job as associate director of the Office of Workers' Compensation, which would have put him in charge of day-to-day operations of the program, was her mistake and done under pressure to meet the July 26 deadline for implementing the law.
Donaldson said he had second thoughts about the appointment soon after it was made and said he felt the city should look around for other qualified applicants. But he said Eanet was retained as a consultant because "we wanted to use his talents."