Hard on the heels of the Ivanhoe Donaldson corruption conviction comes new trouble for the administration of Marion Barry -- once again right under his nose. This time it's another deputy mayor, Alphonse G. Hill, who submitted his resignation on Saturday. And while the results of a federal grand jury investigation are still to come, the evidence already points to unacceptable behavior by a top public official. Mr. Hill has acknowledged -- in an amended financial disclosure statement -- that he received a $3,000 payment from a District contractor last December and accepted free lodging from another contractor and a local bankers' lobbying group. Regardless of legalities that may be involved, that is indefensible conduct -- and cause for Mr. Hill to leave the administration. It also fuels existing anxiet about the stewardship of Mr. Barry.
The mayor made a point on Thursday of denouncing such transactions, stating that "even if it is legal . . . I don't think top officials in my administration ought to be taking money from contractors doing business with the District government." That's absolutely right, and in fact is spelled out in the "District of Columbia Executive Handbook":
"Employees of the District government shall not solicit, or accept, either directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, loan, entertainment, or other thing of value from a person, persons, or organization who singularly or in concert with others: 1.have, or are seeking to obtain, contractual or other business of financial relations with the District government . . ."
None of this new to Mr. Hill, who was cautioned in 1982 by then-inspector general Joyce Blalock to keep his distance from the very friend who last December gave him the $3,000 payment. And Mr. Hill knew about the grand jury investigation, which had been going on since at least last summer. Yet the $3,000 payment was not disclosed until March 7, in an interview by an attorney for Mr. Hill's longtime friend James Hill Jr. (no relation), head of Hill, Taylor & Co., an accounting firm. The attorney described the payment as "a matter of courtesy" for the deputy mayor's referral that resulted in non-D.C. government business for the accounting firm.
But thanks for any business -- government or not -- should not come in dollars for the pockets of a top D.C. official -- and if it does it should be flatly refused by that official.
This is Mr. Barry's message now -- but how forcefully has he enunciated this policy before? How effectively has he been monitoring, questioning, criticizing or blasting the financial practices of his closest associates in city hall? Is he a man who has been systematically fooled and betrayed by friends? Are these incidents separate and unrelated? Or is thee reason to believe that the mayor has been unjustifiably and inexplicably lax?