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CFO Natwar M. Gandhi Responds to Congresswoman Norton Letter

Friday, May 3, 2002

CFO Natwar M. Gandhi Responds to Congresswoman Norton Letter

(Washington, DC) Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi made the following statement today in response to concerns raised by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on legislative proposals made to Congress by his office:

“As the District’s representative, Congresswoman Norton has proven herself to be a forceful and effective proponent of our capital city. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her and her office, and I want to allay any concerns she has about recent legislative proposals my office has made. She has been supportive of our efforts in the past, and I regret that the intent of these changes has not been accurately relayed to her.

“The April 8 Superior Court ruling affirms a 1999 decision of the Public Employee Relations Board that the Office of the Chief Financial Officer’s (OCFO) ‘at will’ authority does not relieve the OCFO of the responsibility to honor collective bargaining agreements. The OCFO plans to appeal this decision, because we believe it incorrectly interprets existing appropriations law on the subject, and because we believe implementing this decision now would be extremely disruptive and costly to the daily operations of the OCFO (for example, requiring us to revisit all OCFO personnel actions since 1996). However, an appeal will probably take years, during which time the cost of potential claims if we lose might rise. We only asked the relevant congressional committees to consider a technical correction to clarify the original intent of existing appropriations law.

“The proposals my office has made do not in any way seek to expand the authority or independence of the CFO as agreed to by the District’s elected officials. They are one possible solution that would do two things. First, it would confirm the clear intent of Congress in giving the OCFO independent personnel authority, and second, it would extend the duration of that independent authority consistent with the legislation passed last year by the Council and approved by the Mayor, but not yet approved by Congress.

“In my role as chief financial officer, I have been and always will be a strong supporter of the District’s home rule. My first responsibility upon my appointment was to ensure a smooth return to home rule with the release of the city’s fourth consecutive balanced budget and clean opinion. Now that home rule is again a reality, I must help ensure it is maintained by ensuring the strength of the city’s financial operations, and that was the intent of my office’s recent actions.

“As an appointed official, it is my job to ensure that the final decision on any legislative matter is the prerogative of the District’s elected leadership and the Congress.”