D.C. nails another CFO employee for fraudulent parking

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Photo - A handicapped parking sign outside a Giant grocery store in Washington D.C., Fri, May 11, 2012
A handicapped parking sign outside a Giant grocery store in Washington D.C., Fri, May 11, 2012
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The District's internal watchdog has found that a second employee of the city's chief financial officer improperly used a disability placard to avoid paying for parking, a confidential report obtained by The Washington Examiner shows.

The report did not name the employee, but officials familiar with the long-running investigation said he works in the criminal investigation unit of the city's troubled tax office.

According to District Inspector General Charles Willoughby, the employee used a Maryland disabled parking placard issued to his mother-in-law. When city investigators conducted surveillance on the employee's vehicle on four occasions, they "observed both the parking meter and the dashboard of the ... employee's vehicle and saw that the ... employee had not paid for metered parking."

Investigators confronted the worker in January 2012 and said the "employee admitted that he used his mother-in-law's Maryland disability placard so he can park for free."

The worker said he had used the placard about 80 times -- never paying for parking -- and "acknowledged to investigators that his use of the Maryland disability placard was a misuse."

Although Willoughby's office interviewed the employee on Jan. 16, 2012, it did not issue a report until last week.

It was the second time in recent months that Willoughby's office has found that an employee of District CFO Natwar Gandhi abused disabled parking placards.

According to a November report from Willoughby, a criminal investigator in Gandhi's agency used her husband's disabled placard for parking at work up to 15 times a month for a year.

People who have been briefed on the investigation identified the employee as Donna Tolliver, who has worked for the city since 1998. She remains employed by Gandhi's office in a position that city records show pays her $94,000 a year and has not responded to repeated requests for comment from The Examiner.SClBWhen she spoke to investigators, she attributed her actions to "poor judgment."

Gandhi spokesman David Umansky said the CFO, whose agency has long had personnel issues on his watch, was disturbed by the inspector general's latest findings.

"He's angry at why people would do something so stupid," Umansky said. "This is something that we are very concerned about. We are reviewing the report, and we'll take the necessary actions as allowed."

Ward 2 D.C. Councilman Jack Evans, who chairs the legislative committee that oversees Gandhi's office, said that although he didn't fault Gandhi for the episodes, he wondered why the CFO's employees continued to become ensnared in scandal.

"It's puzzling that we'd still be catching them doing things that clearly are illegal or certainly inappropriate," Evans said. "It just goes to show that human nature is what it is."

Gandhi's office has come under fire in the past for its workers' actions, including embezzlement schemes and deceptive employment applications.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner