Bill Rice, longtime local government spokesperson and political junkie, has left the District’s employ.

Rice, most recently spokesperson for the Office of Property Management, has spent many years at the city transportation department under director Dan Tangherlini. Rice’s ousting comes weeks after Tangherlini’s departure to federal government.

Rice was informed that his OPM position had been eliminated. That move comes after the city announced a serious revenue shortfall Monday, though it’s not at all clear that immediate budget cuts would be necessary—-the council is likely to vote to tap budget reserves. And for fiscal 2010, which starts Oct. 1 of this year, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty proposed in his budget plan adding an additional two employees to the agency’s communications staff.

The move does come as agency communications staff are given less and less of a free hand in dealing with media requests. All but the most routine requests to agencies—-especially politically sensitive matters—-are funneled through mayoral communications director Mafara Hobson and her staff. The mayor’s communications office is budgeted to add an additional two staffers in the next fiscal year. The Washington Post‘s Nikita Stewart included this line in a story this morning: ‘The mayor’s communications office exercises increasing control over information. Liaisons from the office oversee news conferences and releases handled by the communications staffs of city departments.’

Rice, before he was a flack, spent years as a reporter for community newspapers, including this one. He has always been an inveterate local politicker, running for city office a number of times—-most recently a 2006 run for the Ward 3 council seat. He’s known for campaigning on his usual transportation—-a rusty old bike. In his OPM job, Rice had to put the kibosh on his most flagrant political activities—-the ‘bullpen’ gatherings of local reporters and politicos, for one—-but he still shows up to pretty much every political gathering in town.

His wife, Myrna Sislen, confirms the news. Rice didn’t immediately answer calls to his cell phone—-very un-Bill Rice! LL will update when he calls back.

LL will note that the timing’s lousy: What’s probably OPM’s most high-profile project of recent years—-the reconstruction of Eastern Market—-is scheduled to debut Friday.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery