Students of government should always remember the old saying about the left hand and right hand sometimes not being in sync.

In October, James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Jo Ann Howard, administrator of the Federal Insurance Administration, gave an outstanding public service award and a lovely plaque to David K. Meehan, vice chairman of Bankers Insurance Group in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The award was for, among other things, Meehan's years of work in getting other companies involved in making flood insurance more available to individuals and businesses.

Thanks for the "beautiful plaque and distinguished award ceremony," Meehan wrote in a Nov. 8 letter. Meehan said he'd been working with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for the last 16 years, trying to increase "the consumer's awareness to the peril of flood and expanding the policy base. . . . I look forward to continuing my involvement with FEMA, the FIA and NFIP; most particularly, I look forward to the continued personal and professional relationships I have developed with everyone associated with this beneficial program."

Just 11 days later, someone else became even more closely associated with that beneficial program--and with Bankers. That would be Lynne A. Battaglia, U.S. attorney in Maryland, who filed suit in federal court in Baltimore alleging that Bankers shorted the government about $1 million by withholding back interest it earned on federal flood insurance funds.

The suit claims the bank made false records or statements "to conceal, avoid, or decrease its obligation to pay the United States all interest income" the bank earned on NFIP funds between 1988 and 1997. Battaglia wants treble damages plus other penalties.

Bankers, in a statement at the time, said it "acted properly at all times" and would "vigorously contest the allegations." Bankers said it "believes the government has elevated a technical accounting dispute into a federal case."

A FEMA official says Meehan, who was not among the Bankers folks named in the suit, was more than entitled to keep the plaque nonetheless.

Hurry, There's Still Time to Serve

Didn't get the fancy job you wanted in the Clinton administration? Figuring your time has run out? Dust off that resume! Some of the most primo government jobs imaginable are there for the asking! You don't even have to quit your day job and, best of all, you don't have to be confirmed by the Senate.

We're talking about short-term board memberships on the various quasi-governmental financial lending institutions. Sources say there are two vacancies on the Fannie Mae board of directors. The base pay is only some $23,000 a year, plus $1,000 per board meeting--there are about seven a year. But then there are some additional stock awards and such that can boost the package to $50,000 or $75,000 a year, or even more.

There's an opening at Freddie Mac, which pays about $40,000 to board members. There are no openings at Sallie Mae--no stock options either, but the $25,000 per year there can sure help with college tuition. The White House is permitted to kick some folks off that board and make room for others. That may be happening soon.

Communicators on the Move

Maury S. Lane, director of government affairs for Westinghouse Electric Co. here for three years, before that an aide to then-Sen. Donald W. Riegle (D-Mich.) and, for the last three years, the highly regarded communications director for Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.), is going private once again. This time, it's back to his Texas roots, moving to Austin to be a vice president in the Fleishman-Hillard office there.

Also on the Hill, Jim Wilkinson, press secretary and longtime aide to House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.), is off to be communications director of the National Republican Campaign Committee.

Ron Bonjean, communications director for Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), is moving to the House Republican Conference next month to run press operations as the communications director, replacing Lauren Maddox. Elizabeth Brealey, now Castle's deputy press secretary, will move up to be his communications director.

A Natural at Handling Resources

Photographic confirmation of what the enviros have always suspected of Mark Rey, former timber industry lobbyist and now a top aide on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee: Rey, saw in hand, having a fine time cutting a tree to take home for Christmas.

CAPTION: Former timber industry lobbyist Mark Rey shows that he still has what it takes to tame trees.