Payne is already suing Gandhi and the city in a federal wrongful termination case dating back to 2010. Payne says he was fired in 2009 after more than four years at the finance office because he would not bow to political pressure from D.C. Council members to intervene in the awarding of the city’s lottery contract.
Gandhi made the allegedly defamatory comments while discussing Payne and his previous lawsuit in an interview with the Post ahead of his June 28 confirmation hearing for another term as CFO.
In the interview, Gandhi said that Payne was fired because he was a “very poor manager” who was “nasty to people” and “rude to outsiders” — not in connection to his actions on the lottery contract.
“We should have basically gotten rid of him earlier than we did, because the problems were noticed,” Gandhi said in the course of the Post interview. At the time, he said he was not concerned about speaking freely because he had already testified similarly in a court deposition.
Gandhi previously commented on Payne’s firing in an e-mail sent in response to a June column by Post columnist Colbert I. King that referenced the lottery dealings. Therein Gandhi said Payne “was terminated because of his poor performance issues.”
In both the e-mail and in his interview comments, Payne claims, Gandhi contradicted statements made during a November deposition that he was not personally involved in Payne’s firing.
The comments together, the lawsuit says, were “intentional, extreme, and outrageous” and caused Payne “loss of reputation, emotional distress, embarrassment and personal humiliation.”
Payne is seeking a combined $3 million on grounds of defamation, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He is being represented by attorney Donald Temple, who represented him in the wrongful termination case until earlier this year.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) recently gave limited depositions in the wrongful termination case.
A spokesman for Gandhi, David Umansky, did not immediately reply to an e-mail and phone call for comment. The D.C. Council confirmed Gandhi, the CFO since 2000, to another five-year term on July 10.
An initial hearing in the defamation case is set for Nov. 2.