Adrienne Todman, interim director of the D.C. Housing Authority, said Tuesday that her agency remains independent by law and questioned whether the agency's finances can be taken over by Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi as he plans.
Gandhi sent a memorandum Monday to Todman to inform her that he would "assume control of the financial operations and financial staff" there July 1. He said in the memo that he would need documents, such as an organization chart, to carry on the transition by June 1.
The takeover has been months in the making, stemming from the discovery last October that the administration of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) had funneled millions of dollars to the agency to build and renovate recreation facilities. The revelation sparked ongoing investigations into the eventual transfers of almost $100 million.
The agency, with significant input from the Fenty administration, also awarded contracts to firms with ties to Fenty. A special counsel to the D.C. Council, the Office of the Inspector General and the D.C. auditor are investigating. The contracts were awarded without council approval.
Gandhi has been signaling for months that he thinks he needs to rein in the housing authority. In the memo, he refers to a Jan. 25 meeting when the potential takeover was discussed.
But Todman said the authority's legal team is looking into the matter, and she also wants to talk to residents about how they feel.
"The most prevailing thing is that we are an independent agency, and our statutes set up a protective wall around us," she said.
Todman also noted the recent argument between Gandhi and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee about how the pending teachers' contract would be funded as an example of how there could be future conflict, with Gandhi in charge of financial operations.
Todman was joined by Fenty and council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) Tuesday to unveil new playground equipment and a resurfaced basketball court at the Park Morton Housing Complex on Georgia Avenue.
Fenty, who was copied on Gandhi's memo, said he did not have enough information about the issue to comment.
Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), who heads the committee that oversees recreation, applauded Gandhi's plans as "a step in the right direction."
-- Nikita Stewart