Major Marion Barry acknowledge yesterday that the D.C. City Council improperly hired 88 worked Council 1975 to 1977 under a federallly financed jobs program. He agreed to pay back the $1.4 million spent on their wages.
The 88 workers represented nearly two-third of the 144 workers hired by the council under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act program, known as CETA, during the two-year period.
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor of the council's Ceta program, made public a year ago, had fund that many employes were hired under a patronage system that violated CETA rules.
The assignment of the employes to jobs on the staffs of council committees, which are under partisan political control, also was found to breach the rules.
The CETA program, created by Congress early in the decade, was designed to provide training and jobs for unemployed annd disadvantaged people.
The full list of the 88 workers never was publicly released, but it included Lorethea Davis, the wife of a prominent dentist, who worked in the office of former Council Chairman Sterling Tucker when her husband was serving as Tucker's mayoral campaign treasurer.
Tucker, who had overall control of the council's CETA program, declined yesterday to comment on Barry's admission of wrongdoing in the program. Tucker now is an assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Other well-connected CETA workers were Absalom Jordon Jr., a close political associate of Douglas E. Moore when Moore was an at-large member of the council, and Alan Winter, son of council member Nadine P. Winter.
All 88 employes, including Davis and Jordan have since been dropped from the CETA rolls. Some individuals, including Alan Winter, were transferred to the regular council payroll. The council's participation in the CETA program itself has been ended.
Announcement of an agreement in which the city admitted the violations was made in a terse nine-paragraph statement issued jointly by Barry and Assistant Secretary of Labor Ernest G.Green. It was released by the Labor Department.
Barry was a member of the council and chairman of its Finance and Revenue Committee, which had two CETA workers on its staff, when the dispute came to light. He never figured in allegations of improprieties.
Walter E. Washington, who then was major and legally the so-called "prime sponsor" of the city's CETA program defended the legality of the council's program in a series letters to the Labor Department. Barry, as his successor, continued as recently as two months ago to resist the idea that the city should pay the CETA workers' wages back to the federal government.
In his most recent letter, Barry said fewer than 20 of the CETA workers had been active in the election campaigns of the council members who sponsored them.
Former major Washington, like Tucker, also declined to comment. He said only that he was happy the issue was settled.
The amount of the payback, $1,379, 654, was disclosed for the first time in yesterday's joint statement.
"This money will come from nonfederal city funds and will be used to increase the size of the District's CETA program, so as not to penalize the poor of the District," the statement declared.
Just how this would be done was not clear. Barry would not discuss the agrenment with a reporter. City budget director Gladys Mack said she had not been consulted in preparing the agreement, and did not know how the funds would be made available.
Ordinarily the city must seek any outlay in an appropriation bill that requires congressional approval. Mack's office currently is preparing the city budget for the fiscal year that will start Oct. 1, 1980.
In the joint statement, Barry and Green said the city had agreed "to abide with the letter and intent of the CETA regulationns in the future..... We are confident that we can have an effective CETA program (here)."