PLENTY OF CITY taxpayers must be a little disturbed by the news that Tilmon B. O'Bryant - who quit as an assistant police chief with a $33,000-a-year, tax-free disability pension because of high blood pressure - has taken out petitions to run for city council chairman. Now, we wouldn't want to rule out the possibility that Mr. O'Byrant has fully recovered from the condition that had apparently disabled him. We sincerely hope he has. But we cannot help remembering the words of warning he attributed to his physician at the time: "Chief, for several years I have told you that your blood pressure is a dangerous thing to be toying around with and you should not be working." And so we can only conclude that Mr. O'Bryant sees the council chairmanship as more of an honor, really, than a job at which he would be expected to work. It would be quite a nice deal if he won: A city council chairman's salary of about $38,400 plus that tax-free $33,000 is the rough equivalent of $100,000 a year in salary.
Certainly there's nothing peculiar about a retired police officer with a disability pension finding employment hereabouts. Mr. O'Bryant himself noted in a letter to the editor that appeared on this page that he had seen "hundreds of officers and officials of all ranks retire on disability," though he resented the publicity given his case and suggested that it was motivated by racism.
As readers well know, the publicity has never had to do with race: The attention at that time was on the disability retirements of Police Chief Maurice J. Culliane and Fire Chief Burton Johnson, too, who - along with Mr. O'Bryant - were merely picking up the same kinds of tax-free lifetime pensions that have been graciously awarded, under a wonderfully beneficient retirement system, to 82 percent of the District's retired police officers. The difference now is that Mr. O'Bryant is not just talking about private employment, but public money in return for public service. That is something many citizens may wish to take into account in judging any quest by him for higher public office.