Gandhi’s office has repeatedly said that personnel matters — including what officials knew about George’s background and when — are private. “As we have stated to you previously, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer does not make public personnel information about its employees,” Gandhi’s spokesman, David Umansky, said in an e-mail earlier this month.
But in a letter last week to Post columnist Colbert I. King, Gandhi provided detailed information about George's departure from Georgia, including a copy of George’s separation notice from Fulton County. Such notices are used by the state to help determine eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits.
Gandhi wrote that George was removed “without cause” and retained for “consulting and transitional services” afterward.
“Though his contract ended in its fourth year, it was for no cause,” Gandhi wrote. “Thus, it is clear that Fulton County concluded that Mr. George had committed no illegal or inappropriate acts during his tenure.”
Fulton County Board of Assessors Chairman Bill Huff said that George was terminated for making unilateral decisions to adjust property values in the county. Huff said the board did not need a reason to terminate George based on the terms of his contract, and indicated “no cause” on his separation notice because “that’s just the cleanest way to do it.”
“We didn’t have to have a cause,” Huff said. “It was a clean separation.”
Huff said that George was not called back to provide transitional consulting services.
Gandhi also said in his letter to King that a search firm had “presented no derogatory information regarding Mr. George or his employment with Fulton County” and that agency officials who followed up with a background check also were not presented with any troubling information. The search firm has declined to comment on the process.
The Post reported earlier this month that several female appraisers in 2010 filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Fulton County, which is pending. The suit does not name George as a defendant, but alleges problems with his management of the tax office. In court records and interviews with The Post, the appraisers allege in part that they were pushed to lower property values without justification.
In his letter to King, Gandhi wrote, “Much of the derogatory information . . . is given by a handful of terminated employees who brought suit against the county. The suit has yet to be tried and concluded before a finder of fact.”
Both Huff and former Fulton County chief appraiser Burt Manning have shared similar concerns in interviews with The Post about George’s management style and the property value reductions. George’s personnel file in Fulton, obtained by The Post through a public records request, contains his notice of termination but does not provide a reason for it.
George filed his own lawsuit against the county after he was terminated, which is a part of the public record. He dropped his complaint in March 2011, about eight months before he became chief appraiser in the District. In response to the lawsuit, Fulton County attorneys had argued that there was “a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for all of the [county’s] employment decisions.”
Huff has said that no one from the District had contacted him before George was hired. Manning, who had supervised George, has said he received several calls about George from people in the District but could not recall when. He said he referred callers to the county’s human resources department, though he said he corrected at least one caller from the District who had asked months ago for clarification on George’s appraisal certification level in Georgia.
Manning said he pointed out that George was not a level four appraiser and had “barely passed the appraiser three exam.”
Records show that George failed the level three exam twice before receiving a passing grade in 2008. The grade, however, was not high enough to qualify him to be a candidate for level four certification, said Seymour, the state Department of Revenue spokesman. George also took the level four exam, failing it five times before passing in 2011, records show. He received certificates that showed he had passed the level three and level four exams, but without a higher score on the level three test, he could not become certified as a level four appraiser, Seymour said.
“It’s like passing law school but not the bar,” Seymour said.
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.