More DC employees face discipline for parking abuse

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

Two more employees of the District's chief financial officer have been implicated in a long-running probe into misconduct tied to the fraudulent use of disabled parking permits.

D.C. Inspector General Charles Willoughby, in a confidential report obtained by The Washington Examiner, said that an unidentified employee of CFO Natwar Gandhi used another worker's disabled parking placard on at least nine occasions in 2011.

"The ... employee told investigators that over the years, he has received numerous parking violation tickets, which were costing him a lot of money in fines," Willoughby wrote.

A second employee helped to facilitate the scheme, trading her Maryland-issued disabled parking permit in exchange for her colleague's taxpayer-funded SmarTrip card, which included a monthly subsidy of $25.

According to investigators, the second worker said that she provided her disability placard "because she did not see anything wrong with it" but later acknowledged "that it was wrong."

The newest allegations mean that city investigators have accused more than a dozen Gandhi employees of exploiting privileges intended for disabled drivers. The inspector general's office has refused to discuss the status of the investigation or why it initially opened the probe targeting Gandhi's agency.

David Umansky, a spokesman for Gandhi, said Thursday that the CFO would review the findings and pursue discipline.

"We will take the proper action," said Umansky, who added that Gandhi's office did not know why it was the subject of scrutiny.

District investigators have accused at least 17 employees since November in connection with schemes to procure free parking or better spots. Most of the plots, officials said, have been tied to disabled parking placards.

Willoughby's office has engaged in aggressive surveillance of select employees, trailing workers dozens of times to observe their parking practices.

The findings have prompted internal disciplinary actions and reviews, but the District has been largely tight-lipped about consequences.

The D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability has become involved, though, and reached a negotiated settlement last month with one worker.

Under the terms of that agreement, the contract worker for the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs paid a $500 fine after acknowledging that she had improperly used a disabled placard "every work day for approximately two years so that she did not have to pay to park and so that she could remain in one parking spot all day."

And earlier this month, the ethics board issued a notice of violation to another employee, setting the stage for a formal hearing.

Stacie Pittell, the board's general counsel, said Thursday that the panel is likely to review several additional cases.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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