ON DEC. 1, the Daily News reported that the postal plant processing the city's mail was so dysfunctional and understaffed that unprocessed mail was filling the warehouse, sitting in bins and trucks and sometimes being destroyed. Problems stemmed from the new plant's going online with 600 fewer employees than the old.

A postal inspector general's report highlighted

a history of delays at the plant. In 2006 alone, 216 million pieces of mail were delayed. Some of that included people's medications, stoking the outrage.

The inspector general opened a criminal probe. The plant's manager was reassigned, and a new one installed. U.S. Rep. Bob Brady called for a Government Accountability Office investigation. Wrongs started to get righted.

And then, it seemed the problem disappeared, virtually overnight! This week, the Daily News reported that suddenly, not only has the backlog been addressed, but there is so little mail to process, that workers were sent home early. And Brady has withdrawn his request for a GAO investigation, mainly, he says, because the newly appointed manager, Jim Gallagher, is an old friend of his.

Brady attributed the sudden empty mail bins to "efficiencies." Riiiiiiight.

We're glad for Brady's intercession - as the Mummers found out this week, when Brady gets involved, things can happen - but we wish he'd reconsider the delay on an investigation.

His personal friend's assurance that things are getting back on track may be good enough for him, but it hardly carries the weight of an objective, independent investigation done in the light of day and released to the public. Brady says he wanted to give his friend time before inspectors breathed down his neck. Brady will rely on Gallagher's word when it's time for an investigation.

The benefit of a full-fledged GAO investgation, which wouldn't start immediately anyway, is that it becomes part of the public record. And the GAO already has looked at problems in the Postal Service; in a 2007 report, it chastised the service for botching the transition to new plants like the one here. Even if the GAO doesn't pursue an investigation (it may decline if it determines that other investigations are duplicative), the request is an important acknowledgment that the people deserve more than the word of a congressman's friend to fix this outrageous mess. *