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Who's the Boss? Nickles?

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Don't look now, but another trusted aide to embattled D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi has left office.

A month after top Gandhi deputy Ben Lorigo resigned, Maryann Young, who served as Gandhi's spokeswoman for four years, departed last week to take over as the director of elections for Lackawanna County, Pa.

The move is another blow to Gandhi, who had placed much faith in Young to help him manage political crises. Whether it was the debate over public financing for the Nationals' $611 million baseball stadium or the recent embezzlement scandal in the tax and revenue office, Young was Gandhi's spinner-in-chief, acting as the first line of defense between the media and her boss.

Gandhi had so much confidence in Young, a former Associated Press reporter and Houston city government employee, that he had moved her to help D.C. schools Chief Financial Officer Pamela Graham last summer. That appointment was aimed at helping Gandhi navigate the political minefield of school finances.

Even though Graham works for Gandhi, he had long argued that he could not be held accountable for the financial problems of the schools because he had no control over human resources and other departments that entered into financial contracts. After Fenty took over the schools, however, Gandhi knew the days of plausible deniability were over -- and he wanted his chief spokeswoman on the front lines as the media spotlight became more intense.

Enter the tax office debacle.

After federal authorities arrested two tax office workers and several alleged accomplices and charged them with embezzling more than $20 million, Gandhi summoned Young back to his office at the John A. Wilson Building. After an initial flurry of stories, Young helped get her boss out of the headlines by basically restricting reporters' access to him and the tax office.

Young insisted to the Notebook that her departure had nothing to do with the tax office scandal and scoffed at suggestions that it might foreshadow a departure by Gandhi. She said she learned that Lackawanna officials were seeking a new elections chief during the winter holiday break while she and her husband, a federal government employee, were staying at a weekend home they have long owned in the county. Young grew up in nearby Carbondale, Pa.

Lackawanna, with about 200,000 residents and 60,000 registered voters, will have a presidential primary April 22. Young will help the county commissioners set up a new voting machine system.

Karyn-Siobhan Robinson, who had been the spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, has replaced Young in Gandhi's shop.

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