WHAT IS IT about D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and trouble? The two seem to have a way of finding each other. Yesterday the former mayor was back in the same federal courthouse where a jury of his peers found him guilty in 1990 of a misdemeanor drug charge that sent him to jail for six months. This time Mr. Barry stood before a magistrate judge and pleaded guilty to "knowingly and willfully" failing to file his federal and D.C. tax returns and pay all taxes owed the District and federal governments in 2000. As a result, while Mr. Barry's colleagues on the council are tending to the city's business on Jan. 18, he will be otherwise occupied at the courthouse waiting to learn his sentence, which could range from probation to 18 months in jail.

We won't dwell on the state of Mr. Barry's finances or the other court cases that, in the years since his drug conviction, have led to financial judgments against him. The fact that the government in this instance acquired sufficient evidence to successfully charge him with two misdemeanors tells the story about Mr. Barry and the state of his taxes. Unfortunately, yesterday's event in the federal courthouse also reflects poorly upon Marion Barry the public official.

The D.C. Council, as the city's legislature, has a reputation to uphold. A lawmaker who is found guilty of breaking the law dishonors himself and the institution to which he belongs. That point seems lost on Mr. Barry, who apparently has a hard time staying out of court. But it is conduct that is not lost on the city's youth. And that aspect of Mr. Barry's conduct may be the saddest consequence of all.