Tax Office Scandal Guts Gandhi's Credibility

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 16, 2007 | Go to article overview

Tax Office Scandal Guts Gandhi's Credibility


Byline: Adrienne T. Washington, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Why does Natwar M. Gandhi still have his six-figure job? No matter where you go, whom you talk to, or whom you happen to overhear in the beauty salon this week, the talk of this town invariably turns to the fate of the city's third chief financial officer.

"I don't know how he recovers from this," and "He's got to go, too," are the unforgiving lines I've heard more than once from those calling for Mr. Gandhi's hide after the worst financial scandal in the District's history.

With more than $30 million and counting in misappropriated money from the Department of Taxation that Mr. Gandhi dubiously directed, the head of one nonprofit group even called to jokingly ask me if I wanted to get in on her office pool. That's just one counting of the days to Mr. Gandhi's departure. I did not place a bet, but if he's around six months from now, hmm ... I'll buy a high-priced hot dog in the new baseball park

Here is one fiasco that threatens not only the financial stability of the city but also the political dynamics, and for once it can't be blamed on Marion Barry.

No, credit the ability of mid-level workers in the CFO's office to raid the city's coffers for years under the much-touted, green-shaded eyes of the Bowtie Bandit, former Mayor Anthony A. Williams, and his third-string proteges.

Government efficiency? Sorry, but I told you not to buy the hype about that globe-trotting administration's accounting acumen. As I stated before, had the city not been so flush with cash from the real estate boom, its budgets may not have been so balanced. It's a wonder now that the same bounty created a lax atmosphere, fostered by spendthrift bureaucrats who should have been pinching every penny.

"This is the corruption the [congressionally appointed] control board should have been looking for," a former city official said.

Who is going to miss those millions when hundreds of millions are being spent on stadiums and movie production and the like? Whatever you say about Harriette Walters and Diane Gustus, charged with stealing at least $30 million through a refund scheme, "Mother Harriette," as I heard her described yesterday, certainly did spread the wealth and hush money around.

Which brings me to the rather sticky point that this is neither the first, nor will it be the last, case of systemic malfeasance unearthed throughout the D.C. government under this new mayor's watch. The bean counters and their holdovers have not used due diligence.

And Mr. Gandhi, despite his public record, has lost his credibility, at least among the D. …

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