Opinion

Examiner Local Editorial: Graham, Gandhi still mum on lottery contract

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Opinion,Local Editorial

If they are innocent of any ethical or legal improprieties regarding D.C.'s $38 million lottery contract, why are D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi and Councilman Jim Graham refusing to answer any questions about it four years later?

Hours after the Feb. 10 deposition of Robert Andary, former director of the CFO's Office of Integrity and Oversight, was made public, Gandhi refused to answer questions at a Thursday council hearing, including finance committee Chairman Jack Evans' query as to why two Andary reports, which contain substantial material differences, are both dated July 29, 2008.

Gandhi's lawyer cited ongoing litigation to explain his silence. That would be the wrongful-termination lawsuit filed by former CFO contracting officer Eric Payne, who testified under oath that certain D.C. Council members, including Evans, Graham and then-Council Chairman Vincent Gray "engaged in direct communication with the CFO regarding the immediate contract award during the period of time when there was great pressure being exerted upon me to cancel the lottery contract award." Payne has accused Gandhi and Graham of conspiring to force him out of his job when he refused an illegal request to reopen the bidding.

Graham, who ludicrously claimed whistleblower status in Payne's case, has adamantly proclaimed his innocence. But some of Graham's replies during his own July 11 deposition were absurdly evasive, such as when the council member answered, "He's a person," when asked to identify a former advisory neighborhood commissioner from his own ward. Like Gandhi, Graham also refused to answer any questions regarding the lottery contract under oath.

In contrast, Andary testified that Gandhi directly interfered with his supposedly independent investigation. Although the probe exonerated Payne, Andary said he was "disgusted" with Graham for his "sordid quid pro quo" and "inappropriate actions" in trying to link the lucrative contract to a Metro land development deal while Graham represented D.C. on the Metro board. Andary reached the same conclusion as Metro's Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft investigation, but these serious allegations against Graham were scrubbed from his final report and never investigated further.

During a subsequent phone conversation, Gandhi testified, Graham expressed concern that "the report was made public," even though Graham claimed in his deposition that he "wasn't aware of the content of the report." Somebody's not telling the truth. And if steering contracts and trashing the careers of honest employees aren't crimes in D.C., perjury certainly is.

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