D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said Tuesday that the District’s chief financial officer should rework how his office conducts employee background checks, bringing new weight to a long-standing criticism of an agency that once drew attention for an employee’s $48 million theft, according to an article from the Washington Examiner.
At a meeting with Gray and city lawmakers, Natwar Gandhi said his office’s pre-employment review includes salary verification, Internet searches and ensuring the applicant is current on his or her District taxes. Only after a person is hired do city officials check criminal histories, education records, credit reports, references and federal tax filings, he says.
Gandhi also said in the meeting that his office’s protocols are similar to those the federal government uses, but Gray was still concerned, the article reports.
“Maybe some of those things should come before rather than after an offer has been made,” said Gray in the meeting.
According to the Examiner article, David Umansky, Gandhi’s spokesman, says that the office was “immediately going to review all our processes to see what changes should and can be made.”
Questions about Gandhi’s employment-linked investigations have been a mainstay of his 12-year tenure, the article says, noting that soon after Gandhi took over as CFO, his general counsel resigned after an internal probe found that “he held neither a law degree nor a license to practice law.”
Criticisms resurfaced after Harriette Walters, an Office of Tax and Revenue employee, was arrested in 2007 for stealing more than $48 million during nearly 20 years in government. She is now serving a 17 ½-year prison sentence, the article notes.
And some eight months before Walters was sentenced, the D.C. auditor found fault in Gandhi’s screenings and warned that the lack of pre-employment background checks could expose the city to “an unreasonable risk of financial harm from misappropriation and other fraudulent activities,” the article reports.
At the time, a Gandhi aide – Robert Andary, the executive director of Gandhi’s integrity and oversight office – defended the office’s policy, saying “The investigations can take months to complete. It would not be practical to conduct this type of investigation on applicants and to expect most applicants to be willing to wait for the results of a background investigation before being hired.”