Sallie Melendez, a controversial aide to D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, is on a private trip to Hong Kong, according to city officials who said she left on Saturday -- one day after she was given specific duties in the $63,185-per-year job she has held since Oct. 1.
Melendez, a former public relations official from Oakland, is leading a group of citizens on a private shopping excursion that she arranged before joining Barry's administration, according to city officials, who said that the leave was approved by Barry. Melendez is on leave without pay and is expected to return to work Dec. 1.
At a Cabinet meeting on Friday, Barry assigned Melendez as his liaison to about a dozen agencies. Barry acted two days after media inquiries about Melendez, whose undefined job duties had caused grumbling among some Barry aides.
According to city officials, Melendez has arranged several previous group shopping trips to the Orient. It was unclear yesterday whether Melendez would continue to lead such trips and whether she conducts them as a commercial venture.
Barry and his wife, Effi, also are slated to travel this week.
The mayor is scheduled to leave tomorrow on a five-day, private vacation trip to the Bahamas with his son, Christopher -- the second such trip this year.
Barry, who will pay his own expenses, will be accompanied by at least one security aide whose expenses will be paid by city tax funds.
Effi Barry is scheduled to leave Saturday on a seven-day visit to London where she will represent the District at a European travel show. Effi Barry's expenses are being paid by the Committee to Promote Washington and the Washington Convention and Visitors Association, which receive most of their funds from a city tax on hotel rooms.