- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2012

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray is poised to appoint the city’s chief financial officer, Natwar M. Gandhi, to another five-year term as soon as Friday, according to multiple city hall sources familiar with the situation.

The reappointment will put to rest months of speculation about whether Mr. Gray should extend the longtime CFO’s tenure with the city.

Mr. Gandhi, who has served as CFO since 2000, has been accused by city leaders of issuing revenue estimates that turned out to be too conservative.

The issue took a serious turn in the past year, when city workers demanded repayment for a quartet of furlough days they took in 2011, only to see the District gain a $240 million windfall by the end of the year. In March, Mr. Gray sent an unusual letter to Mr. Gandhi’s office — which is supposed to be independent of the mayor’s administration — that suggested his latest revenue estimates were “unrealistically low.”

For his part, Mr. Gandhi told The Washington Times in April that he does not view himself as “overly conservative,” but rather “realistically conservative.” He also touted his relationship with members of Congress who oversee the District’s budget and expressed gratitude for his years as the District’s top bookkeeper.

“I’m a first-generation Asian-American immigrant with an accent, and now the chief financial officer of the nation’s capital,” Mr. Gandhi told the Times, noting it “says volumes” about the “generosity” of the people of the District.

Mr. Gray indicated in March that a decision on Mr. Gandhi’s reappointment would come after the 2013 budget was approved, which occurred last week.

The mayor declined to comment on Mr. Gandhi’s position after a public event Thursday at the Thomas Elementary School in Ward 7. But in the past, Mr. Gray has indicated that Mr. Gandhi is performing admirably as the city continues to see economic growth that outstrips other areas of the country.

States across the country foundered in recent years without steady government jobs or a surging real estate market such as the District’s — the “hottest in the country, if not the world,” as Mr. Gandhi is fond of noting — to buoy them through the recession.

But council member David A. Catania, at-large independent and member of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, has consistently criticized Mr. Gandhi on multiple fronts and drastically diverged from the mayor in his view of Mr. Gandhi’s pending renewal.

“I am disappointed by Mayor Gray’s decision to reappoint Natwar Gandhi to another five-year term,” Mr. Catania said through a spokesman.

He went on to accuse Mr. Gandhi of letting millions of dollars “walk out the door” in high-profile thefts from the Office of Tax and Revenue. He further criticized him for failing to collect $100 million in legally mandated real estate taxes and for underestimating the cost of the Washington Nationals’ baseball stadium by more than $200 million.

“That is not the kind of job performance that warrants continued confidence,” Mr. Catania said.

Earlier this year, Mr. Gandhi faced heat over the city’s controversial online-gambling law, which was ultimately repealed by the D.C. Council. A report by the D.C. inspector general said the city’s lottery contract with the Greek company Intralot “materially changed” to include the online games shortly after its approval in December 2009 and should have been rebid for a fair competition.

Mr. Gandhi, whose office ran the lottery procurement that led to the Intralot award, has rejected that conclusion, arguing that each bidder weighed in on potential online games during the lottery procurement process.

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