Officials considering chance Barry may quit Mayor's trip out of town fuels speculation

May 04, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- With Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. completing his first week out of the city seeking "physical, mental and spiritual rejuvenation," city officials have begun considering the possibility that he might resign.

"I hope that doesn't happen because we would have chaos in the city," Jack Evans, a City Council member whose district includes Georgetown and parts of downtown, said yesterday in an interview. "But privately, people have discussed it and what would happen if he did resign."

Mr. Evans and several other council members said they did not expect Mr. Barry to resign. But they also said that they would not be surprised if he decided not to seek re-election in 1998 to what would be his fifth term in 20 years. Mr. Barry served three consecutive four-year terms through 1990, before he was arrested for smoking crack cocaine and sent to prison for six months.

His return to office in 1994 is generally considered one of the most remarkable political comebacks.

Speculation that Mr. Barry might step down, once an unimaginable development, has gained momentum in the last week, which is widely regarded as one of the most unusual weeks in the city's recent history.

After months of lurching from one crisis to another because of the city's financial instability, Mr. Barry announced last Saturday that he was leaving for a secluded retreat in southern Maryland to rest. He said he had neglected his health in the aftermath of surgery for prostate cancer last December and needed a break.

In addition, Mr. Barry said he needed to "take a fearless personal moral inventory," as prescribed by the 12-step program followed by many recovering substance abusers, and that instantly fueled rumors of a relapse into drug or alcohol use.

After his arrest in 1990, Mr. Barry acknowledged that he was addicted to drugs and alcohol.

In a published report Wednesday, Mr. Barry denied that he had suffered a relapse. At a news conference hastily arranged by his staff on the same day at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, he said that he and his wife, Cora Masters Barry, were leaving for St. Louis to continue his rest at another retreat because reporters and friends had been disrupting his solitude.

His denial did little to quell rumors that Mr. Barry might have resumed using drugs or alcohol again, and a news conference Wednesday by a political supporter, Rock Newman, seemed to give the rumors added credibility.

Mr. Newman, a friend of the Barrys and a contributor to the mayor's campaign in 1994, begged the mayor "to stop the maddening process toward relapse and personal destruction" and urged him to consider resigning.

When Mr. Newman was asked if drugs or alcohol had contributed to Mr. Barry's need to get away, he hesitated for several moments, then declined to speculate.

By yesterday, the possibility that Mr. Barry might resign and the reasons he might do so were being talked about throughout city government.

Pub Date: 5/04/96

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