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Lawmakers voting on third term for District's CFO

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Photo - D.C. Chief Financial Office Natwar Gandhi (Examiner file photo)
D.C. Chief Financial Office Natwar Gandhi (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Liz Farmer

The District's top financial advisor is up for another five-year term managing the city's $10 billion operation, and his confirmation hearing scheduled Thursday is expected to contain few fireworks despite increased criticism from some D.C. Council members.

In the 12 years Natwar Gandhi has been chief financial officer, the federally run Financial Control Board released its grip on city finances, the District has had a balanced budget and the city's credit rating has soared.

In recent months, however, members of council have called into question Gandhi's conservative budget estimates. They note they are often asked to make cuts or raise revenue -- such as the income tax increase passed last fall -- only to have a budget surplus at the end of the year.

Who's testifying?
Former Mayor Anthony Williams; former D.C. Councilwoman Charlene Drew Jarvis; former Councilwoman Kathy Patterson; John Hill, CEO, Federal City Council; Barbara Lang, president and CEO, DC Chamber of Commerce; Ernie Jarvis, president, D.C. Building Industry Association; attorney Elaine Middleman; Ed Lazere, executive director, DC Fiscal Policy Institute; Geo T. Johnson, executive director, Council 20, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Terry Lynch, executive director, Downtown Cluster of Congregations; Jim Dinegar, president and CEO, Greater Washington Board of Trade; D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi

Chief among those critics has been at-large Councilman David Catania, who serves on the council committee taking up the CFO's confirmation. Another committee member, Ward 4's Muriel Bowser, has also questioned Gandhi's estimates. Still, the committee's chairman, Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, is squarely behind Gandhi.

Ed Lazere, executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, said the recent criticism hasn't been entirely fair.

"Dr. Gandhi and his team have a very hard task to predict the future of not just D.C. but the entire country and the world," he said. "I think it's a really hard job and I don't think anybody could do it particularly accurately."

Indeed, the panelists slated to testify Thursday are almost entirely supporters of Gandhi's work.

But there have also been missteps. In 2007, investigators uncovered a tax office scam led by employee Harriette Walters that robbed the city of nearly $50 million and played out on Gandhi's watch. Gandhi is also being sued by former aide Eric Payne for allegedly firing him because he blew the whistle on favoritism in the lottery contracting process.

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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