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D.C. aide in 'niggardly' flap will return to City Hall

"I think ultimately the good that can come out of this is that through this discussion, we can all understand each other better" - David Howard

CNN's Steve Randall takes a closer look at the word in question
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Mayor now says he acted 'too hastily'

February 4, 1999
Web posted at: 9:06 p.m. EST (0206 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A white aide to Washington Mayor Anthony Williams who resigned after using the word "niggardly" in a conversation will be returning to city government, ending a flap over what critics derided as political correctness run amok.

On Thursday, saying he acted "too hastily" in accepting David Howard's resignation, Williams offered Howard his job back as director of the Office of the Public Advocate. Howard agreed to come back to city government, but he has asked the mayor to find him a different job.

"While it is important for a mayor, or any leader, to act decisively, make bold decisions and create a sense of urgency, it is not always necessary to act hastily," said Williams, who was elected mayor in November.

On January 15, Howard used the word "niggardly" -- a synonym for "stingy" -- in a conversation with two aides. Eleven days later, he resigned as rumors were spreading that he had used a racial epithet.

Howard now says he was too quick to resign.


niggardly - adj. 1. stingy; miserly; 2. small, few, or scanty; - adv. 1. stingily.

-- Webster's New World College Dictionary, Third Edition

"At the time, I thought it was the best thing for the city and the administration," he said.

But columnists and commentators pounced on the incident as yet another example of the ludicrous state of politics and race relations in Washington.

Williams, who is black, had promised to bring a new era of respectability after decades of excess under his controversial predecessor, Marion Barry. But Howard's resignation led to accusations that the new mayor was kowtowing to remnants of the Barry regime.

Both aides who heard Howard use the word "niggardly" were holdovers from the Barry administration, and one was a candidate for the job Howard was given.

"The recently completed review of the incident confirmed for me that Mr. Howard did use the word 'niggardly' but did not use a racial epithet," Williams said, adding that the employee who complained misunderstood Howard to have use a racial slur.

As for Howard, he says that in the future, he'll use the word "parsimonious" instead.

Correspondent Gene Randall and Reuters contributed to this report.

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WWWebster Dictionary - Merriam Webster
ARTFL Project: 1913 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
Mayor Anthony Williams, Making DC Work for Us.
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