Mayor Marion Barry has been saying lately he doesn't like being called the Teflon Mayor because, after all, he's not in the frying pan.
While it may be true that Barry isn't in the frying pan sizzling, he does appear to be in some sort of political pressure cooker. The Ivanhoe Donaldson guilty plea on Dec. 10 put the mayor there and it's unlikely he will find any relief, at least until his former campaign guru and ex-deputy mayor is sentenced and out of the picture.
One week after the guilty plea, the mayor had to concede to reporters that one of his favorite sayings -- "There has been no major scandal in this administration" -- was now out of date.
But he countered with the argument that it was he who had approved the internal investigation of the D.C. Department of Employment Services that led to Donaldson's conviction and it was he who had authorized the city's inspector general to turn over to the prosecutor key documentation pointing to Donaldson's guilt in the theft of more than $190,000 in city funds.
So now the mayor has a new saying: There may have been a major scandal, but I was the one who ferreted it out.
What Barry doesn't mention is that a federal grand jury and the FBI had already begun investigating wrongdoing in the department when the mayor approved the inspector general's inquiry.
In recent public appearances, Barry has tried to minimize the political damage caused by the Donaldson affair by preemptively raising the subject himself, instead of appearing to be on the defensive.
At a meeting of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, the mayor staged an impressive show calculated to demonstrate that he hasn't been slowed by the revelation that one of his closest associates defrauded the city government.
Speaking confidently, Barry confronted head-on several major issues that have put him at odds with his detractors in Georgetown: the controversy over whether to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21, control over liquor licenses in the popular entertainment district and development along Georgetown's waterfront.
Barry also noted, in by-the-way fashion, that he has been working industriously to root out wrongdoing in the city, wherever it may be found.
The mayor reminded the Georgetown residents that his police officers had just cracked an alleged credit card fraud scheme in the area.
Then he said that a "close personal friend" of his had been caught up in a corrupt scheme. The mayor didn't mention Donaldson by name, but there wasn't a soul among the 150 or so present who didn't get the reference.
By taking the preemptive posture in this way, Barry so far has avoided appearing visibly wounded by the scandal at the District Building. But is the mayor simply delaying his day of reckoning?
When the Donaldson sentencing takes place on Jan. 27, a sequence of events will be triggered that could be even trickier for Barry to handle than the guilty plea itself.
The law provides that after the initial sentencing, Donaldson, who faces a maximum sentence of 23 years in prison and $360,000 in fines, could obtain a reduced sentence if he cooperates with the federal investigation into wrongdoing.
If he does, and there is more dirt at Barry's doorstep, then the pressure will build on the mayor.
If Donaldson does not, and the federal investigation is concluded, the mayor will be expected to begin an investigation of his own that he has so far avoided -- an investigation of other District officials who were implicated by federal prosecutors in the case against Donaldson.
Although those officials were not accused of criminal wrongdoing, Barry acknowledged at a press conference that their actions violated fundamental administrative procedures. The mayor said then, however, that he would take no action in their cases until the grand jury investigation is completed.
Once that grand jury investigation is indeed over, the mayor will have to act.
The likelihood therefore is that, whether or not Donaldson reveals anything new to the grand jury, the Donaldson affair will continue to plague the mayor, at least until housecleaning is completed in the employment services department, the locus of most of the Donaldson wrongdoing.
With Barry's expected bid for reelection approaching, the lingering scandal could induce a well-placed challenger to come forward and take Barry on.
Then, Barry may wish he was the Teflon Mayor.
The District is becoming a battleground for Beer Wars, it appears. While the D.C. chapter of the NAACP last month was honoring Rusty Jackson, a community relations specialist of the Adolph Coors Co., for the company's support of academic programs, the Miller Brewing Co., was winning kudos from Joslyn N. Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO.
Williams wrote a letter to Barry praising him for lining up Miller as this year's sponsor for the city's New Year's Eve celebration at the Old Post Office Pavilion.
So while the NAACP was extolling Coors as a "wellspring of financial and in-kind support," Williams was terming the company "antiworker" and heaping plaudits on the company with the union beer label.