Tempers at the District Building, where Mayor Marion Barry and some members of his senior staff have been feuding over his handling of his office, cooled somewhat yesterday when a showdown staff meeting did not materialize and both sides tried to stick to routine government business.
The Washington Post reported Sunday that members of Barry's senior staff have complained to him that he is poorly handling the pressures caused by administrative problems and federal investigations into Barry's administration. The mayor, asked to respond to the criticism, had said that he would meet with the aides yesterday morning -- but he never called the aides together.
"Nobody got fired; leave us alone for a while," said one official. During the day, aides held budget and other meetings while Barry made a couple of brief public appearances in the morning, then remained away from his office much of the afternoon, meeting privately with Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke to discuss prospects for a new football stadium in the city.
Meanwhile, the mayor's wife Effi, in an interview with WRC-TV (Channel 4) broadcast yesterday, described her husband as an honest but "arrogant" man. "It's the street dude that's in him," the mayor's wife said in the latest excerpt of the television interview conducted Friday.
The mayor's wife said she agreed with her husband that U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova, who is conducting a wide-ranging probe of alleged corruption in the District government, is trying to destroy Barry politically.
"He's trying to make it impossible for him to run again because his character has been assassinated and the allegations and innuendoes have destroyed his credibility," she said. "But maybe at the end of all of this we will discover there hasn't been any wrongdoing on the part of my husband."
While Effi Barry has been supportive of the mayor in the broadcast interviews, which are to continue this week, aides to the mayor said the interviews only serve to keep controversial issues before the public. Effi Barry decided to do the interview without consulting Barry's advisers, aides said.
In her television interview, the mayor's wife said she believed that U.S. attorneys "across the country . . . are waging war" and that other U.S. attorneys "in other cities have been successful, but Mr. diGenova hasn't been able to get the big fish yet."
Effi Barry noted that her husband has been under some form of investigation "since the day he stepped into office in 1979. To date, the only kind of wrongdoing that my husband has admitted to has been the fact he used indiscretion in his personal involvements with other women -- whatever those involvements may have been."
The mayor's wife described her husband of nine years as an honest but "arrogant person, but you'd expect him to be because he has a right to be. But there are different kinds of arrogance. His arrogance goes along with his charisma. That's part of his personality. It's the street dude in him. He came from the streets, and that's possibly offensive to some people."
Some of the mayor's senior officials, citing the "arrogance of power," have charged that Barry has been unfairly critical of aides in public rather than taking responsibility for the image of growing disarray in his administration.
In recent days, the aides have focused their criticism on Barry's approach to dealing with the federal probes of D.C. contracting, alleged police corruption and allegations that convicted drug dealer Karen K. Johnson received money in exchange for not testifying against the mayor and others.
Sources said yesterday that the mayor had attempted on Friday and again on Sunday to hold meetings with some senior aides to discuss their concerns, but the meetings were not held because no one was available. At least one official said some of the aides had purposefully left the District Building early on Friday and made themselves unavailable over the weekend.