As I reported last week, Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi has disclaimed any liability for the alleged noncollection of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in deed recordation taxes.
Gandhi’s response — that he has correctly interpreted the law — is as you might expect, given that his office has an interest in not looking incompetent.
But an outstanding question about Gandhi’s position was whether it reflected his office’s own legal position only, or whether it also reflected the more independent analysis of the Office of the Attorney General.
In a Tuesday interview, Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan clarified that Gandhi’s letters to D.C. Council members were the CFO’s alone. “They were written without any consultation with this office, without any preknowledge that this was going out,” he said.
Nathan said his office has examined the issue, but he declined to share any conclusions with me. “I don’t know that there will be an opportunity for us to comment,” he said, “but if we are asked by the council to comment, we’d be delighted to do it.”
Well, lo and behold, now comes a council member asking Nathan for his opinion.
David A. Catania (I-At Large), who has been bulldogging Gandhi on this issue (among many, many others), today dispatched a letter to Gandhi attacking his analysis, calling various parts of it “extremely disconcerting,” “disingenuous,” “flawed,” and so forth.
“It is my opinion that the Council and the public deserve a full explanation of this matter,” Catania writes, and to that end, he has requested advisory opinions from Nathan and the Council’s chief lawyer, David Zvenyach.
Should Nathan or Zvenyach find that Gandhi and his tax collectors screwed up the application of the 2001 law, the practical effects stand to be minimal — that is, there will likely be no windfall. The city can go back only three years to fix its own taxation mistakes, and given the litigation sure to proceed from any attempt to collect, it might not even be worth it.
That said, if Nathan were to find that the 2001 law was misapplied, it would be quite an embarrassment to Gandhi, who has exactly one year remaining in his term as of today.
Here’s Catania’s letter: