HARD ON THE HEELS of a politically charged
contracting dispute between Mayor Barry and the D.C. Lottery Board comes yet another disquieting rumble involving the city's money games. Mr. Barry, who didn't like the way the board first awarded a contract for a numbers game, now doesn't even like the majority of his own appointed board members or, for that matter, the board's independent authority. So it was not surprising that his close ally on the council, Nadine Winter, got the council to block an entire lottery-board budget request.
Mrs. Winter's complaint was that the board hadn't documented the need for additional money to get through the year, and therefore shouldn't spend any more. As a result, the board, which has had a full-time staff of about 36 people, along with another 40 or more part-time or temporary employees, first announced the firing of 17 clerks and secretaries on Wednesday, along with the suspension of most spending.
After this posturing, budget talks focused on getting rid of a total of 22 people, as part of a reduction in the lottery board budget that is the equivalent of about 21/2 percent of the estimated net revenues to be produced by the lottery games this year.
This dispute feeds public anxiety about city hall's ability to manage. People do wonder what's going on. Budget negotiations are necessary and important. But there was good reason that the lottery was established as semi-independent, too; it handles large contracts and large amounts of money that should be as free as possible from political manipulation by any city administration. That insulation is important--both to public confidence in the lottery itself and to the government in general.