Mayor Marion Barry, in an interview yesterday after a speech cautioning D.C. employes to report wrongdoing to city officials, lambasted U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova for his comment last week deriding what he called "the days of wheeling, dealing and stealing in the D.C. government."
"DiGenova is just lying" in alleging there has been widespread corruption in the city government, Barry said at the Washington Convention Center, where he had just delivered a State of the Department address to D.C. Department of Administrative Services employes.
"The facts don't substantiate it," Barry said. "At some point you have got to put up or shut up with all these vile statements about massive corruption."
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office declined comment. DiGenova's remark, in which he said "the days of wheeling, dealing and stealing in the D.C. government are over," came after the sentencing of former D.C. lottery official Alexander Exum on charges that he accepted a payoff from a lottery contractor.
Barry, in addressing the ethics issue before the Administrative Services employes, implored employes to report any wrongdoing to D.C. authorities before going to the U.S. attorney or the media. "I think you ought to try us first," he said. "I don't like dime-droppers who call the media before they call agency Director William Johnson about a problem."
Barry also referred in his speech to an "Ethics Strike Force," but declined in an interview to describe such a unit. An aide later said the group, composed of high-level aides, has been organized to formulate proposals for responding to questions surrounding ethics in the Barry administration.
The aide said several initiatives attacking corruption likely will be unveiled in the coming weeks. Top Barry deputies and leaders in his reelection campaign have identified corruption, housing and corrections issues as critical to the mayor's administration and reelection effort.
Barry said yesterday he expects the release soon of a report on the city's public housing system, criticized by some for its long waiting list and poor maintenance record.
The mayor drew frequent applause from the several hundred Administrative Services staff members in the hall, complimenting them on their devotion to duty and seeking to stir them with what was for the most part a humor-laden pep talk.
Recounting progress in data processing, procurement reform and other areas of the department, Barry also warned middle-managers in the audience not to "use my name" when they have to deliver bad news to subordinates. Barry suggested that some managers have had a tendency to blame contracting and personnel decisions on him.