IN AN EDITORIAL on March 31 of this year, we questioned the judgment of Mayor Walter Washington in promoting Bettie J. Robinson to the position of acting director of the D.C. Office of Consumer Protection. We noted that at the time of her promotion she had "dismissal proceedings pending against her." Miss Robinson has now denied that allegation - in a letter to us dated July 31 - and demanded a retraction. What revived the subject at this late date, apparently, was a similar allegation by City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker on July 28, to which Miss Robinson took public issue. In any case, our review of the convoluted, not to say arcane, bureaucratic process involved in dismissal proceedings suggests that, technically, Miss Robinson may have a point, and we are pleased to retract the offending statement.
We would like to add a few words, however, about what was pending against Miss Robinson at the time of her promotion. First, there was a formal "warning of unsatisfactory performance" issued last December by the office director, Edith Barksdale Sloan, who by then had been disignated, but not yet confirmed, as a presidential appointee to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This document warned that, if Miss Robinson's work did not improve sufficiently within 90 days, a formal "unsatisfactory" rating would be recommended, in which case "you may be reassigned or demoted . . . or you may be removed from the service." Second, there was a memo dated March 17, 1978, and addressed to City Administrator Julian Dugas, in which Mrs. Sloan, just before officially moving on from her director's job, recommended a rating of unsatisfactory performance; observing that the 90-day period had expired, she went on to urge that Miss Robinson be transferred out of the consumer office or "barring that, removed from the service . . . ." These formalities, we have been given to understand, are the necessary precondition to the institution of actual dismissal proceedings in the curious world of the civil service.
So the real question, under the circumstances, is not whether dismissal proceedings were actually "pending" against Miss Robinson at the time the mayor chose her for the acting director's job. The real question is what the written record said of Miss Robinson's qualifications in March for the job of acting director - or, for that matter, the job of director, to which she has just recently been elevated by the mayor. Our conclusion last March was that "charges of failure to do your job are odd grounds for promotion to a more demanding and responsible position." Frankly, the grounds for Miss Robinson's ascendancies still strike us as odd.