The Washington Post

D.C. CFO candidate is in final vetting

Outgoing Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi has pledged to stay on until his successor is confirmed but has been keeping a low profile. (Harry Hamburg/AP)

Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Wednesday he expects to announce his pick for the District’s next chief financial officer “very soon.”

Two persons familiar with the search not authorized to comment publicly said Gray has authorized a final vetting for his preferred candidate after personally interviewing several candidates in recent weeks.

Asked to elaborate on “very soon,” Gray said “a matter of weeks or months,” drawing chuckles at a morning news conference. But the persons speaking confidentially said the announcement is likely to come within weeks rather than months.

The search to replace longtime CFO Natwar M. Gandhi has been underway since February, when Gray appointed former mayor Anthony A. Williams and former federal budget director Alice M. Rivlin to lead it. Neither Williams nor Rivlin responded to calls for comment late Wednesday.

The identities of the final candidate is being kept under a tight lid, the persons said. “It’s pretty much isolated at the very top,” said a Gray administration official. “Vetting is incredibly important to us. We’re in the final phases.”

Asked Wednesday to describe his ideal candidate, Gray today offered some clues on his pick: “Someone who has a proven track record of having managed these kinds of complex financial issues. Someone who has a reputation with elected leaders, with appointed leaders for having done a good job. Someone who certainly understands what it means to work with the rating agencies. … Someone, frankly, who also has the experience of managing a lot of employees.”

Gray, who has been critical of the CFO’s structural independence at times, also said he expected his pick to have a more collaborative relationship with elected officials.

“As a new CFO comes on, one of the things I hope we would do is flush out areas that are the province of the CFO but have to involve the executive and the council as well,” he said, citing recent revelations published in The Washington Post about the city’s process of selling property tax debts to private parties.

“Quite frankly, I didn’t even know the story was coming until the day the first installment was published,” Gray continued, acknowledging that Gandhi’s office made his communications director aware of the coming stories in cursory terms shortly beforehand. “Even though there’s an independent CFO, there’s got to be collaboration on things like this.”

Once Gray makes his pick, the nomination goes to the D.C. Council for confirmation, adding to a crowded fall legislative agenda likely to include a minimum wage increase, campaign finance reform and financing for a new soccer stadium.

Gandhi, who resigned in January but agreed to stay on until his successor is confirmed, has stayed out of the public eye in recent weeks. In the wake of the Post series, it was left to Deputy CFO Stephen Cordi, director of the Office of Tax and Revenue, to publicly defend the tax sale process.

Gray said Wednesday that Gandhi has remained engaged in his duties during a “thorough and painstaking” search. “Yes, he still is on the job,” he said.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.



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Mike DeBonis · September 18, 2013

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