The curious case of Stephen G. Callas began in June when Mayor Anthony A. Williams, then still unsullied by the petitions scandal that would soon consume his re-election effort, nominated Callas, a veteran election board member, to another term.

What happened after that remains cloaked in mystery. This we know: Callas was one of the three election board members who voted unanimously to boot Williams off the Democratic Party's primary ballot and fine him $277,700. Now, through an odd sequence of events, Callas is getting the boot himself -- off the election board.

Administration officials pooh-pooh talk of intrigue, saying it was a simple oversight. The mayor sent down the nomination, and the D.C. Council blew it, failing to vote on the matter within the 90 business days required by statute. It's a technicality, they agree, but it's the law.

They chalk it up to mere coincidence that of the dozens and dozens of nominations the council handles with little trouble each year, it was Callas who fell through the cracks.

This particular crack seems to have opened at the council's Government Operations Committee, under the leadership of Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), who cleaved quite closely to the mayor in the recent re-election battle.

Orange's committee let the nomination sit for six months, voting on it in November. When it reached the full council this month for final action, Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) announced that the clock had run out on the nomination.

Several council members, led by Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3), who has Callas as a constituent, have demanded that he be renominated. She has even said she will seek to block any alternative.

"If he was a good, strong board member in June or July, I don't know what has changed other than the petition scandal," she said.

Callas declined to comment, referring questions to board Chairman Benjamin F. Wilson, who carefully outlined the timeline of events but stopped short of accusing the mayor of vengeance. He called the turn of events an "unintentional error."

"I would expect that the mayor would reappoint Mr. Callas," Wilson said.

Those expectations may well be thwarted. Though administration officials profess innocence in the Callas affair and blame the council, they also express no eagerness to renew the nomination, as Patterson and others have asked.

Williams said coyly, "You can be assured that whoever gets nominated has the highest qualifications."

Fenty Takes a Whack Reassignment of committee chairmanships took a Grinch-like turn last week when the D.C. Council met -- behind closed doors, of course -- in an administrative meeting.

The dilemma was that nobody had lost a council seat in November's election, so no committee chairmanships were empty. The three most junior members -- Democrats Phil Mendelson (At Large), Jim Graham (Ward 1) and Adrian M. Fenty (Ward 4) -- could get better gigs only if the rest of the members agreed to major changes.

The options were to strip chairmanships from the only Republicans, Carol Schwartz (At Large) and David A. Catania (At Large), or to refashion some larger committees into smaller ones.

The council, led by Cropp, opted for the status quo, although Mendelson and Graham were tossed crumbs. Mendelson, already chair of the glamorous Subcommittee on Labor, Voting Rights and Redistricting, had the Public Service Commission added to his plate.

Graham, already chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, Latino Affairs and Property Management, received added responsibilities for the city's Asian affairs office and oversight of surplus property, an unsexy but bureaucratically important subject.

Fenty? The council's youngest member, whose populist instincts have put him on many a short list of future mayoral candidates was accorded a dressing-down from Cropp about the council's hallowed seniority system.

Cropp had not taken kindly to Fenty's eagerness to go his own way on a host of issues. His cardinal sin apparently spreading the word that he would vote against the council's system of chairmanships if he wasn't named to one. Many an ear in that room reported that Cropp let Fenty know exactly how such a vote would go down.

She also reportedly told Fenty, who complained about remaining in chairmanship exile for two more years, "It'll go fast."

Jangle Bells The fight over whether to reopen Klingle Road NW generates such enormous passion that the arguments, counter-arguements and intrigue could fill this column week after week, something authors of this space have resisted.

But in the spirit of the season, here is an update we couldn't resist from the Klingle Road Coalition. See if you can guess the melody. The words are penned by somebody named Kris Klingle.

Klingle bells, klingle bells, klingle all the way!

O what fun it is to ride on Klingle Road Parkway

Klingle bells, klingle bells, klingle all the way!

O what fun it is to ride in my drop-top Chevrolet

Dashing through D.C., on any given day,

We are forced to breathe, toxics all the way;

Cough, cough, cough.

Porter Street is clogged, Connecticut Ave. -- no way!

Can't get through, shame on you,

Tim Russert gets his way!

Klingle bells, klingle bells, klingle all the way!

O what fun it is to ride on Klingle Road Parkway!