MAYOR WASHINGTON has described the bribery and conspiracy convictions of his top aide, Joseph P. Yeldell, and millionaire developer Dominic F. Antonelli Jr. as a tragedy for the District of Coloumbia, as well as for the two men and their families. The mayor is half right - certainly there is personal tragedy in this case for the two men most directly involved. But this is not a tragedy for the community. It is an ordinary case of corruption - and neither the integrity of the local government nor of businessmen should suffer as a consequence of it. The crimes committed, in fact, were unfortunately commonplace when you consider the many states and federal agencies where investigations of top public officeholders, friendships and cash have produced evidence of government corruption.
What the jury found was an arrangement whereby Mr. Yeldell traded a fat D.C. government lease for a secret $33,000 Personal loan from Mr. Antonelli. You could say it was a tragedy that Mr. Yeldell's participation in this arrangement netted him so little compared with Mr. Antonelli's gains. But aside from the illegalities of this connection, the relationship in any event was precisely the sort that prudent government officials should take pains to avoid.
By receiving financial favors from someone for whom his city government agency was in a position to do favors of a most profitable nature, Mr Yeldell showed, as he had on other occasions, a remarkable insensitivity to the public responsibility entrusted to him. Through the years, it was Mr. Yeldell's increasing preoccupation with the trappings of political power, coupled with his agency's ability to serve the people of this city who need help the most.
It was inexcusable that Mr. Yedell was allowed to mismanage for as long as he did, with no effort by his superior, Mayor Washington, to do something about it. At least now it is a thing of the past - and that is anything but a tragedy for the local government and the people it still seeks to serve.