Two weeks after the D.C. Council voted to limit the mayor's discretion in awarding city contracts, city lawmakers are proposing legislation to reduce the political influence the mayor would have over the the city's 37 Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.

The measure, introduced by council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), would establish an independent office to provide the commissions with technical assistance, which, since 1976, has been provided by an office of mayor's agents. Some ANCs have complained that the current setup provides opportunity for the commissions to be used to expand the mayor's political power base.

The extensive, 17-page bill would also revamp the way ANC vacancies are filled, create a new process for recalling commissioners and put into law tougher regulations on how the ANCs conduct their financial business.

Over the years, some ANC members have been charged with financial irregularities. A grand jury is currently investigating charges that an ANC member in Ward 8 embezzled $9,000 in ANC funds.

Kane, who gave up her council seat for an unsuccessful primary bid for D.C. delegate, said she has been working with ANCs on the legislation for years, and said it will finally go to the council for a vote in November or December, the last months of her council term.

Kane has headed the council's Committee on Government Operations, which oversees the ANCs. The ANCs serve primarily to advise the city on neighborhood issues such as new liquor licenses and development proposals in their area. When city boards deliberate on issues affecting a neighborhood, they are required by D.C. law to give "great weight" to the local ANC.

Now, when commissioners need guidance, legal help or assistance from other city agencies to reach their decisions, they must call Mayor Marion Barry's constituent services office, called the Office of the General Assistant to the Mayor.

That office, headed until about six months ago by Barry's principal political adviser, Anita Bonds, has often served as the mayor's home for campaign officials in non-election years.

Kane called the office an extension of the mayor's "political operation." She said many ANC members had asked her to create a new office out of the mayor's control.

"People said they didn't want to be part of the mayor's operation," she said.

Kane said the new office, to be called the Advisory Neighborhood Commission Support Office, would be funded with money now allocated for the Office of the General Assistant to the Mayor. She said she hopes the new mayor will abolish that office.

The new office would still be in the executive branch. However, Edward Rich, clerk for the Government Operations Committee, said he expects the final legislation to be written so the office will be "at arm's length from the mayor." The bill does not address funding.

Lon Walls, press secretary for Republican mayoral candidate Maurice T. Turner Jr., said Turner likes the idea of disengaging the mayor's office from control over the ANCs, but wants to make sure the new support office would not cost the city more or add to the bureaucracy.

Sharon Pratt Dixon, the Democratic candidate for mayor, is still studying the bill, but said she would hesitate to create another agency while the city is facing a budget crisis, according to her press secretary, Sonya Sims.

In addition to creating the support office, the bill would allow residents to recall advisory neighborhood commissioners and vote for candidates to fill vacant seats.

Under current law, the other members of a commission decide who will fill vacancies. They also have the final say if a commissioner should be removed.

Jim Zais, who is part of the Office of General Assistant to the Mayor, and wrote an ANC handbook that is given to each new commissioner, said he supports this part of the legislaton.

"It is a fundamental way of filling vacanies -- to take them back to the citizens rather than leaving the final choice up to the remaining commissioners," he said.

To fill a vacant seat or recall a commissioner, an ANC would call for a special election. Residents would vote at the same place where they vote in regular elections.

Registrar of Voters Joe Baxter said it would cost about $1,500 to run such a special election.

To encourage voter participation, the bill also gives the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics the option to conduct the election with postal ballots, something that has never been tried for any election in the District.

The ANCs were created 15 years ago as part of home rule. But regulations spelling out how the ANCs should spend money and award grants were not included in the initial law. Instead, ANCs follow guidelines set by the city's auditor and lawyers, resulting in "endless confusion," Kane said.

"This {legislation} makes it clear what is proper and not proper," she said. "What this means is that every time there is a new ANC, they don't have to reinvent the wheel, but just concentrate on the main purpose of the ANC, which is to advise the city."