Concerns about George’s actions in lowering property values prompted his termination in 2010, Fulton County officials said. Later that year, several female appraisers filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the county, which is pending. In court records and recent interviews with The Washington Post, the appraisers allege in part that they were pushed to lower property values without justification. George filed his own lawsuit against the county alleging discrimination and breach of contract but dropped his complaint in March 2011.
The District hired him eight months later. He is now the city’s chief tax appraiser and once again embroiled in a controversy that involves reduced property values.
This year, George led an effort to settle assessment disputes that lowered the proposed taxable value of 500 commercial properties by $2.6 billion, eight times as much as the total reduction from 2011. The settlements represented a loss of about $48 million in potential revenue. One staff appraiser filed an anonymous complaint, and the FBI and internal auditors are investigating. George did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.
It’s unclear how much Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi or his office knew about George’s background when he was brought on in November. Despite repeated requests, Gandhi and his staff declined to provide information about what they knew and when, including whether they knew about George’s termination and the federal lawsuit, or about who made the decision to hire him, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters. The agency also declined to make public George’s résuméor job application; The Post has filed an appeal with the mayor’s office.
“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 last week.
For years, city officials, including former D.C. auditor Deborah A. Nichols, have urged Gandhi to thoroughly vet employees, particularly those with fiduciary responsibilities.
Agency officials said their screenings are adequate. In an interview with The Post last month, Gandhi said his agency has a “reputable recruiting firm to do our recruitment, and we rely on their referral to make sure all of this is done properly.” Gandhi’s office said that the firm provided “no derogatory information about Mr. George’s previous employment history.”
Agency officials said the McCormick Group, a regionally based executive search firm, conducted a pre-employment screening of George.