“Let me tell ya somethin’, Junior: When you raid a cathouse, you take the piano player too.”
– Sheriff Buford T. Justice, “Smokey and the Bandit II”
That piece of wisdom applies to the grossly incompetent, one-sided and exploitive operation against poor and unsuspecting citizens by the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue. That office, supervised by the city’s chief financial officer, Natwar Gandhi, allowed private debt collectors, including some vultures, to prey on homeowners — some delinquent in paying their property taxes, some made delinquent by city errors. Gandhi’s place upstairs should be raided. But his piano-playing overseers — the D.C. Council’s Finance and Revenue Committee chairman, Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), and Mayor Vincent Gray (D) — should be taken in, too.
To hear Evans and Gray tell it, they were down in the parlor, just plunking away, blissfully unaware of what was going on in the tax and revenue office’s operation.
“Anger and outrage” was Gray’s reaction to the Post’s investigative report.
Gray proclaimed the practices “absolutely unconscionable.” “People,” he declared, “are not going to lose their homes as a result of something like this.”
Evans, who is also running for mayor, huffed that he was “outraged” by the stories.
Shocked, shocked, shocked. Come off it.
More than a year ago, the dire situation had been called to their attention.
Gandhi; Nicholas A. Majett, director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs; Irvin B. Nathan, D.C. attorney general; and John M. Thompson, executive director of the D.C. Office on Aging, were told, too. Letters from the Alliance to Help Owners Maintain Equity, detailing the tax and revenue office’s practices, were hand-delivered to their offices on April 19, 2012.
The D.C. Bar’s Antitrust and Consumer Law Section unanimously adopted a public statement in May 2012, endorsing the alliance’s complaints and positions that had been conveyed to city officials.
On May 28, 2012, The Post’s Katherine Driessen reported on problems in the city’s tax-sale system, describing the lack of fair treatment to homeowners.
Raid Gandhi. But take the piano players, too.