Job openings are piling up in the nation's capital.

Amid the transition to President Clinton's second term and intensifying Democratic fund-raising scandals, senior government officials have bailed out in droves in 1997.

Exits at the banking and thrift agencies rival other sectors of government, and rumors about replacements are swirling as a result. Five major financial agency appointments are lingering, including two spots on the Federal Reserve Board and the heads of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Office of Thrift Supervision.

FDIC Chairman Ricki Helfer departs in six weeks with no clear successor in sight, but two possible names for the job rose to the forefront this week.

When she announced her resignation in mid-March, Ms. Helfer recommended the White House fill the post with Jonathan L. Fiechter, director of the World Bank's financial sector development department and a former OTS director, an FDIC spokesman confirmed Friday.

Reportedly unhappy with the slow pace of change at the World Bank since his arrival in October, Mr. Fiechter is said to be interested in the FDIC's top job.

His experience downsizing the OTS would be valuable because the FDIC plans to shed another 30% of its work force to reach 6,600 employees by 2000. And he also has served on the FDIC board.

From the inside track, however, Leslie A. Woolley, deputy to the chairman for policy, is pursuing the post. Her strengths include strong ties to Capitol Hill, particularly to two of her former bosses: Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., and House Banking Committee member Bill McCollum, R-Fla.

Known more as a reliable, behind-the-scenes staffer, some observers question whether Ms. Woolley has sufficient administrative experience or a commanding enough presence to head a large agency.

Other names have cropped up, too, including FDIC board member Joseph H. Neely. A former banker and Mississippi bank commissioner, the Republican Mr. Neely is unlikely to get the nod from a Democratic president, FDIC sources said. Still, he is close to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R- Miss., and an appointment could be part of a larger political deal.

Up the street at OTS headquarters, a mystery is brewing around Ellen S. Seidman, President Clinton's special assistant for economic policy who was nominated in January as the agency's director.

A popular choice, Ms. Seidman was also once considered a possibility for FDIC chairman. But her Senate confirmation process appears stalled.

Administration officials insist Ms. Seidman's OTS nomination is on track, but Senate staffers want to review a memo she prepared for the controversial May 13 White House fund-raising meeting with Comptroller of the Currency Eugene A. Ludwig and a group of 17 bankers.

OTS officials insist there is no rush, but Nicolas P. Retsinas has done double duty as OTS director and assistant secretary for housing at the Department of Housing and Urban Development since October. "I plan to stay here until my successor is confirmed," Mr. Retsinas said through a spokesman Friday.

Two openings exist at the Fed which lost Lawrence B. Lindsey and Janet L. Yellen as governors early this year. (See related story this page.)

President Clinton must also nominate a director for the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, which lost Aida Alvarez to the Small Business Administration in February.

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