PERHAPS SOME OF YOU were wondering how Joseph P. Yeldell has been doing ever since Mayor Washington rewarded him for incompetence as a department head by promoting him to be No. 3 man in city hall. Aside from awaiting the outcome of a federal grand jury investigation of his role in overseeing contract operations while he was director of the department of human resources, Mr. Yeldell has been attending to all sorts of duties for the mayor. One such, as you may have read in an article Sunday by staff writer Milton Coleman, had to do with contracts again - more specifically, the allocation of contracts to minority entrepreneurs.
This time, however, the problem isn't about who's getting contracts and why. In this case, nearly one year after an important program was set up, not a penny of the estimated $85 million in money available for minority firms has been committed. And lest anyone overblame Mr. Yeldell, it's worth nothing that his boss "is satisfied with the commission's progress," according to a spokesman. After all, goes to the old dogeared official explanation, the difficulties have to do with the fact that no money was appropriated to operate the specail city commission for this program; and it's been hard, doncha know, to find a qualified person to be the commission's executive director. Of course. And never mind that back in 1976, when the City Council first voted 12 to 0 to establish this program, Mayor Washington vetoed the measure - saying, among other things, that it would restrict his right as mayor to award city contracts. Five months later, a nearly identical version of the bill passed and was signed by the mayor - who then couldn't have done more to help fulfill his prophecy than to detail Mr. Yeldell to the program. According to commission members, minority contractors and others involved, the commission has been plagues by internal dissension, political maneuvering and what one faction believes are efforts by Mr. Yeldell to usurp the group's authority.
In any event, the commission's vice chairman has resigned in protest, only weeks after its chairman quit to accept appointment to the city's board of elections and ethics. Yet another member says he's "offended by the official attitude toward his commission," adding, "If it weren't for the fact that my resigning would just let in someone who would do nothing, I would resign out of protest and outrage".
Enough. This was meant to be an important program to assist minority firms in getting a decent share of the city's contract business - and it's been a mess. In this city - of all places, and where federal programs such as the U.S Department of Transportation's Minority Business Resource Center seem to be taking shape impressively - the local administration's failure to produce results is disgraceful. It is also illustrative of the bureaucratic inertia that now permeates the top echelons of the executive branch in the District Building.