“I felt pressure to leave reports in draft,” said DiVello, 65, who had been in the job for two years. “I said that’s a non-starter. My ethics don’t allow me to do that. Put the audits out there. Let the people know . . . if there’s something wrong. It’s okay. You’re finding the problems yourself. But they quarantined the audits.”
David Umansky, the spokesman for the chief financial officer, defended the agency. “It is not true that the OCFO keeps reports in draft to keep them from disclosure,” he said. The agency “does not routinely make the reports public because the information contained in them could provide a guide for someone who wants to use the information for nefarious purposes.”
The audit in question, delivered to Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi in March, found that supervisors in the city’s embattled tax office could change property values without detection. The report was not made public until shortly before The Washington Post obtained a copy and prepared to publish an article on it in August.
City Council members have scheduled an oversight hearing for Wednesday to delve into the matter. DiVello said that in recent weeks, auditors have made changes to the report and included additional findings and recommendations.
But at a heated meeting Thursday afternoon with Gandhi’s chief of staff, general counsel, tax office director and others to prepare for the council hearing, DiVello said he was told that the agency would not finalize the revised audit prior to the council hearing.
“I said: ‘Clear the air. There’s going to be a hearing. What are we hiding?’ ” DiVello recounted. “ ‘Let’s sign it before the hearing.’ They said, ‘No. No. No. It’s still in draft.’ ”
The agency has said that draft reports are not subject to public disclosure.
The latest version of the audit, obtained by The Post, is dated Sept. 19 and includes additional recommendations to improve the tax office’s oversight of the city’s main repository of property-value information, known as the computer-assisted mass appraisal system (or CAMA) and used to calculate tax bills.
Report recently received
Aides for council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and David A. Catania (I-At Large) said they received the September document late Friday afternoon, hours after The Post posed questions about it to Gandhi’s office. Evans is chairman of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, which is holding next week’s hearing; Catania serves on the committee and has voiced concerns about operations and transparency in Gandhi’s office.