THE NEWLY-ELECTED leaders of Washington have earned the right to restore the D.C. government's morale and fiscal health with as few encumbrances as possible. Tomorrow the D.C. Council can ensure their freedom by lending its support to two important pieces of legislation.
The first would be to override outgoing Mayor Marion Barry's recent veto of temporary council legislation that would have prevented him from signing contracts of more than $1 million in value for services or office space without council approval. The second would be to pass a bill that would temporarily prohibit D.C. government raises, promotions and the conversion of temporary job appointments (with limited tenures) to career service status. Mayor-elect Sharon Pratt Dixon supports both measures and wants the council to pass them. She is right.
Mr. Barry and his aides have repeatedly denied approving anything other than routine contracts, and they have denied making personnel moves that would ensure the continued presence of Barry loyalists in the new administration. But questions remain.
The D.C. Council has already asked the city auditor to review Mr. Barry's personnel moves to determine whether they were politically motivated. The city's Office of Campaign Finance is investigating several complaints that D.C. government supervisors loyal to Mr. Barry called meetings of city workers in which Mr. Barry allegedly delivered campaign pitches in his attempt to gain election to the D.C. Council. And the head of the Campaign Finance office says she intends to forward reports of possible Hatch Act violations to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
Also, there have been indications of D.C. government attempts to enter into deals and costly leases involving office space for various city agencies, even though the council has yet to receive a long-delayed comprehensive facilities plan covering all of the property the D.C. government either owns or leases -- a report that could lead to more efficient use of city funds.
The council could simply take Mayor Barry at his word, do nothing and await the outcome of these various investigations. But the city's fiscal situation is too perilous, the need to ensure the mayor-elect's freedom too great and the public's desire for change too apparent to take such chances. The council should override Mr. Barry's veto of the contract scrutiny legislation and pass the bill restricting his personnel moves.