Let’s pay another visit to the local Chamber of Bureaucratic Horrors, also known as the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO), which has been under the stewardship of Natwar M. Gandhi for more than a decade.
The latest attraction on display is Buddy Roogow, Gandhi’s pick to head the D.C. Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board — which really isn’t much of a board because it doesn’t have any members — only Roogow, who reports to Gandhi.
Roogow joins an illustrious list of OCFO horror chamber attractions including:
●Gandhi’s former general counsel, Saamir Kaiser, whose claim to fame is his theft of nearly $250,000 from the Tobacco Settlement Fund and the fact that he was hired as a lawyer although he was not a lawyer;
●Harriette Walters, Office of Tax and Revenue manager, who was discovered in 2007 to have embezzled about $50 million from the city while Gandhi was building his reputation as chief protector of the city’s treasury;
●Kimberle Davis, Office of Tax and Revenue employee who helped file hundreds of false tax returns costing the city $300,000;
●Fifteen postal tubs of unopened mail found in a tax office storage room in December 2010, representing unprocessed payments from D.C. taxpayers worth $2 million;
●Tony L. George, Gandhi’s chief tax appraiser, who resigned last month under controversy over reductions in proposed commercial property tax assessments that reduced the city’s tax base by $2.6 billion.
●The steaming mounds of D.C. government delays designed to discourage fired OCFO official Eric Payne from getting his unfair-termination lawsuit before a jury of his peers in D.C. Superior Court.
There are certainly more horror exhibits, but so little time, so little space.
But now to Buddy Roogow.
Roogow made it into the news recently when the Washington Times reported that “current and former Lottery employees . . . have alleged that Lottery Executive Director Buddy Roogow forced staff to hold fundraisers for agency events, sell lottery tickets as unlicensed agents and grade college papers on government time for a course he taught, among other examples of ‘mismanagement and unethical behavior.’
David Umansky, OCFO spokesman, told the Times that an internal investigation had been conducted and the information given to the D.C. Inspector General’s Office (OIG).
Since then, I have received reports that Roogow was the subject of sexual harassment complaints. According to sources, one female complainant alleged that shortly after Roogow’s appointment, she began to be sexually harassed by him and that Roogow made suggestive remarks about her physique and attire. She filed a complaint, and it was settled by transferring her to another OCFO office and awarding her a cash payment, for which she had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, the sources said.
Gandhi, sources said, was aware of the complaints and the settlement, but had declined to take any corrective action with respect to Roogow.
OFCO’s Office of Integrity and Oversight, I also was told, began investigating the allegations, but the investigative agent was told to stop and no report was compiled, completed or submitted to the OIG.
I called Roogow seeking comment, but he did not return my call.
Last week, I e-mailed David Umansky, OFCO’s public affairs officer, and sent a copy to Gandhi, seeking comment on the sexual harassment complaints against Roogow and the reported settlement, the allegation that Gandhi was aware of the complaints against Roogow and had not taken any action, and the charge that the OIO was told to drop its investigation into the allegations against Roogow.
I also spoke with D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), chairman of the council’s finance committee, about the allegations, because a source said that Evans might be aware of the Roogow situation.
On Wednesday I received this response from Umansky:
“In response to your inquiry, first I must state that the law places strict disclosure limits on all parties involved in personnel matters, such as you describe.
“That said, I can tell you that there were two complaints, there were no cash payments to one or more employees, and there were no limits placed on the OIO investigators. Dr. Gandhi was briefed and the Inspector General received a full report on the matter from OIO last year. All parties directly involved consider the matter closed.”
Evans called me to say that he had spoken by phone with Roogow and OCFO general counsel David Tseng.
He reported that Roogow and Tseng, in separate conversations, told him that was only one complaint and that it came from a female employee who had lodged racial and sexual discrimination — not sexual harassment — complaints against Roogow.
Evans said that Roogow and Tseng told him that the employee was transferred to another job, that everyone was satisfied and that no cash settlement was paid.
I shared the OCFO’s e-mail response with a prominent Washington lawyer who represents the complainant in the sexual harassment allegation against Roogow.
I received this response from the lawyer on Wednesday:
“As to my client, the statement is untrue in that there was a cash payment (to me and to my client).”
Question of the day: “Can the Chamber of Bureaucratic Horrors’ — oops, OCFO’s — word be trusted?