Joseph P. Yeldell, the former top-ranking District of Columbia official recently acquitted of bribery and conspiracy charges, will return to the city payroll Monday as a $50,112-a-year computer coordinator, City Administrator Elijah B. Rogers said yesterday.
Rogers said Yeldell, once a sales executive for the IBM Corp., will advise the city on the purchase and leasing of computer equipment and on the possible consolidation of city computer operations. The District spends about $30 million annually on the purchase and leasing of computer equipment.
Since shortly after the indictment on April 6, 1978, Yeldell has been on leave from his gs-18 job as general assistant to former mayor Walter E. Washington, the No. 3 post in the previous city administration. Earlier, he had headed the Department of Human Resources, the city's largest agency.
Asked by a reporter yesterday why the mayor would want to retain a person some might consider discredited, Ivanhoe Donaldson, the mayor's general assistant and chief political confident, said, "He's had a trial. He's been vindicated."
Rogers sasid Yeldell had a right to reinstatement at the city's highest civil service level, giving him a $50,112 salary enjoyed only be a relative handful of department heads and other administrators.
Because Yeldell requested unpaid leave until the outcome of his two trials, he cannot seek back pay, officials said.
Yeldell will be a special assistant to Colin F. S. Walters, the assistant city administrator for financial management, whose salary Yeldell's will match. Walters said yesterday that no one has ever held that position, but said that he has been looking for an assistant for some time.
The decision to put Yeldell into a prestigious new post resolved a dilemma that, according to sources close to the Barry administration, was tinged with political overtones.
On one hand, the sources said, Barry risked offending some of his strongest supporters by retaining someone whose alledged mismanagement of DHR was a factor in the former mayor being turned out of office.
On the other hand, by the new assignment, Barry could pick up support among Yeldell admirers, including many middle-class, middle-aged conservative Washington blacks who have lived in the city for a long time. Barry never has been a political favorite with that group.
Barry's other apparent option would have been either to assign Yeldell to an obscure post in the hope he would resign or to initiate civil service proceedings designed to terminate him.
"Joe has a large following out there. That brings in a lot of people," said one source close to the administration. "You have to remember, Marion only won [the Democratic primary] with 34 percent of the vote."
Yeldell was considered by many to have the sharpest political mind in the Washington administration, and some sources said yesterday they expected Yeldell to also serve as a political adviser to the mayor.
"If they had a resource like that on hand and they didn't use it, they'd be foolish," the source said.
In a statement read yesterday by his press secretary, Barry said he did not expect any political "fallout" from Yeldell's reinstatement. "I'm not running for anything," Barry said, according to press secretary Florence L. L. Tate.
Yeldell told a reporter last night that he "never left the District government. . .I was a District government employe on leave. I am terminating that leave and going back to work. . . I have nothing more to say, I don't understand why it's newsorthy."
The decision on Yeldell's reinstatement was a closely guarded subject of discussion within the administration. No announcement was planned of the action until late yesterday -- after The Washington Post made inquiries. Yeldell's leave without pay was scheduled to end today.
"We've been working out the details on his reentry and there has been nothing to announce before now," Barry's statement said yesterday.
In his new position, Yeldell actually will have a higher civil service ranking than his boss Walters, an upper level GS-15 who makes the same amount of money.
Walters said yesterday that Yeldell will occupy a small office at the city's computer center, 222 Massachusetts Ave. NW, and will be provided with secretarial help but no staff.
When asked last night about the details of his new job, Yeldell said, "I have not yet seen the job description. . . Certainly, it is in my area of expertise."
Yeldell had a computer sales job -- and the prized White House account -- before leaving IBM in 1971. By that time he had served as a member of the appointed city council and as chairman of the Metro board.
Yeldell and multimillionaire Washington businessman Dominic F. Antonelli were acquited by a federal jury in Philadelphia on Sept. 20 after their second trial on bribery and conspiracy charges.
hey were convicted at an earlier trial in Washington, but the original guilty verdict was overturned on appeal and the second trial ordered.
The indictments charged that Antonelli had given the financially troubled city official a secret $33,000 loan while simultaneously negotiating a lease with the Department of Human Resources, which Yeldell then headed.
Yeldell was born in Washington in 1932, the ninth of 13 children in his family, and grew up in poor neighborhoods in Northeast and Northwest.
He joined IBM after Air Force service and graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh, and was appointed to the original D.C. City Council by President Johnson. He later was reappointed by President Nixon.
In 1971, he left IBM to campaign in the D.C. nonvoting delegate race for Congress, losing in the Democratic primary to Walter E. Fauntroy, who still holds the post. During the campaign he won support from some of the city's most prominent businessmen.
After the defeat, former mayor Washington appointed him director of DHR. Yeldell's administration brought controversy, including questions of his relationship with Antonelli.
Under pressure, Washington removed Yeldell from the DHR post in April 1977, later making him general assistant to the mayor. He was holding that post at the time of his indictment.