Gandhi to testify before D.C. Council
By Nikita Stewart,
Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi is scheduled to testify Thursday before a D.C. Council committee about problems in his agency, ranging from deficiencies in the tax office to an inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission into internal financial audits that were not made public until recently.
Gandhi’s appearance will be the second in two months before the Committee on Finance and Revenue, which initially called a series of hearings in response to reports in The Washington Post.
The first hearing in October was dominated by William J. DiVello, who abruptly resigned as internal affairs chief for the Office of the Chief Financial Office a week before he testified because he said senior managers refused to make public a revised audit that showed that tax office supervisors could change property values without detection.
Since then, a February deposition of Robert Andary, DiVello’s predecessor, shows that he resigned for similar reasons. “Mr. Gandhi inserted himself into the process,” Andary said during the deposition. “He wanted to tell me how the report should be issued and whether the report should be issued and whether anything should be written down as a result of the audit, and I would not concede to that.”
Andary’s deposition was taken in relation to a lawsuit filed by Eric Payne, Gandhi’s former contracts director, who has filed a wrongful-termination suit against the city. Payne claims he was demoted and later terminated after he bucked pressure to change the solicitation of the city’s lucrative lottery contract to accommodate bidders favored by some council members.
Buddy Roogow, lottery director, is also scheduled to testify.
Thursday’s hearing also follows the launch of an official SEC inquiry into the internal audits, which some experts say could be aimed at finding out whether they should have been disclosed to investors during the city’s bond sales.
Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), chairman of the committee, said an update on Gandhi’s response to the SEC is on the agenda for Thursday. He is also asking for an update on the search for a new chief tax assessor. Tony L. George, the former assessor, resigned in October amid controversy over $2.6 billion in assessment reductions and that he misstated the reason for leaving a previous job in Georgia.
The internal affairs unit remains without a permanent director.
Staff writer Debbie Cenziper and researcher Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.