MR. ROBINSON, about whom the U.S. Office of Special Counsel had some unpleasant things to say yesterday. Specifically, Kelvin J. Robinson -- Mayor Anthony A. Williams's fifth chief of staff in six years -- was charged by the Office of Special Counsel with violating the Hatch Act two years ago "by specifically asking D.C. employees, many of whom were his subordinates, to volunteer to work on the Mayor's re-election campaign."

The complaint against Mr. Robinson, filed with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board Friday, asked that he be fired from the D.C. government. In what D.C. officials claim was a fortuitous concatenation of circumstances, Mr. Robinson beat the feds to the punch days before by announcing his departure from the D.C. government effective Aug. 1 for a private-sector position. Unfortunately for him, however, his departure from the city payroll won't spare him from facing the music, at least from the government's point of view. There will be proceedings before the three-member merit board next year at which Mr. Robinson is expected to appear. He could be barred from federal or D.C. government employment for five years.

It's all because, as the complaint charges, the mayor's chief of staff -- who is covered by the Hatch Act -- violated the prohibition against use of his official authority for the purpose of interfering with the result of an election, and the prohibition against soliciting, accepting or receiving political contributions. This is a far cry from the picture painted by Mr. Robinson in February 2003, when The Post -- which broke the story -- asked him about comments he allegedly made in which he urged a group of appointed city officials to contribute money to the mayor's reelection campaign. "Get out your checkbooks," two of the participants recall him as having said. Mr. Robinson told The Post "they certainly misinterpreted what I said." The workers, and presumably the federal investigators, had no difficulty understanding what he had in mind. That's why he's being charged.

Equally disturbing is the mayor's reaction to all this. Mr. Williams was present at the August 2002 meeting when his chief of staff allegedly laid the arm on the city employees. The mayor was even called to testify on the matter before federal investigators. But there was Mr. Williams last week, at the time of Mr. Robinson's announced departure, lauding his chief of staff as "an effective and tenacious leader . . . in pressing loyally for my priorities." Mr. Williams said: "We will miss him." Speak for yourself, Mr. Mayor.