There is no question that the media's interest in the tax situation of Eleanor Holmes Norton was initially justified. Failure to file income taxes is a legitimate source of journalistic inquiry, whether the taxpayer in question is a candidate for public office or not.

However, the recent drumbeat of editorial attention in The Post {Oct. 1} has served no journalistic purpose. Ms. Norton has told the truth about the failure of her and her husband to file joint income taxes. She has apologized and assumed full responsibility for her situation, even as Mr. Norton acknowledged his sole culpability. Furthermore, she has taken steps to see that such a lapse will never happen again, pledging to file individual tax returns and to make them available to the public. Her explanation may not be the one The Post wishes to hear; unfortunately, it can be difficult to rearrange the truth to suit everyone. This seems to be The Post's problem.

The Post asserts that there is "much ... to be disclosed about how the Nortons' local income taxes came not to be paid," and then goes on to question the enforcement actions of the District government, an aspect of the situation for which Ms. Norton is distinctly not responsible. Does it really matter how many notices she never saw? How could she demonstrate to the The Post's satisfaction that she did not see them? If The Post questions her veracity on this point, why not do it directly instead of by innuendo? I would suggest it is because The Post knows that it lacks sufficient cause to do so.

It ought not be forgotten that despite The Post's pronouncement that her difficulties were "disqualifying," a clear plurality of D.C. Democrats believed otherwise. They accepted Ms. Norton's explanation and voted for her Sept. 11.

It is quite another matter to allege that Ms. Norton's explanation is false, with no evidence to support such a theory, and thereby impugn the integrity of one who has been an exemplary public servant and who has managed government agencies at the local and federal levels without a hint of scandal. One need not wonder how Ms. Norton would run her office; we already know from her record that she would serve conscientiously and with skill.

What The Post seeks by asking endlessly for more documents and more explanations at this point is to conduct a fishing expedition that would somehow transform Ms. Norton's personal error of judgment into a conventional political scandal. Obviously those who seek office ought to be subject to public scrutiny and criticism. But the burden in this instance, at this time, is on those who raise rhetorical questions to explain the nature of their charges. To continue to attempt to undermine Ms. Norton's candidacy as endorsed by the voters, with no new information or even new allegations, is unwarranted, irresponsible and doomed to fail. JOSLYN N. WILLIAMS Washington The writer is chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee and president of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO.