Robert Robinson emerged yesterday as a victim of what friends said were his strengths: his zeal for problem solving and loyalty to D.C. Mayor Marion Barry.
His misuse of money from Barry's ceremonial fund surprised some of his supporters, but his motivation, as described by prosecutors, did not: Robinson wanted to protect the mayor from political embarrassment -- something he took upon himself repeatedly in eight years as the mayor's administrative aide.
"He was very loyal to the mayor, very protective," said one top city official, who asked not to be named. "And he had a reputation for getting things done."
Robinson assumed the role of an unofficial trouble-shooter for Barry almost immediately after the mayor's election in 1978. He was hard working and eager, idealistic, and yet savvy enough to know how to resolve political problems.
When Barry came out with a budget proposal that would have closed a police substation, for instance, Robinson was dispatched to quiet the neighborhood uproar. He helped come up with a proposal that kept the substation open but met the police department's budget constraints, according to D.C. school board member Bob Boyd (Ward 6), a close friend.
"He had a presence on a lot of issues," said Joyce Blalock, a former D.C. inspector general. "He appeared very excited about government as a career and a cause. He cared very much."
According to his friends, Robinson maintained his loyalty to Barry even after he was transferred from his administrative post in August 1986, and publicly faulted by the mayor for failing to maintain proper records of expenditures from the mayor's office accounts.
He resigned from a $51,396-a-year post as legislative analyst in May because he felt Barry failed to support him on how to develop the Eastern Market, according to Boyd. Robinson had served on a commission that was studying the future of the market.
Since then, Robinson has been without a job and worrying about his future, while still retaining his basic loyalty to the Barry administration, friends said.
"This is very characteristic of Rob," said Boyd. "He puts a lot of stock in personal loyalty, camaraderie, and the idea that people of a common philosophy must stick together."