Washington DC's CFO to retire in June after 15 years

WASHINGTON Fri Feb 1, 2013 2:10pm EST

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WASHINGTON Feb 1 (Reuters) - The chief financial officer of Washington, D.C., Natwar Gandhi, 72, said Friday he will retire on June 1.

"I feel comfortable retiring at this time because the city is in excellent financial condition, perhaps the best in its history," said Gandhi in a letter to Mayor Vincent Gray. "The fund balance is as high as it ever has been, revenues are rising and, at this time it appears they will continue to do so."

Earlier this week, Gandhi's office announced that the District ended its 2012 fiscal year in October with a surplus of $417 million.

Known for taking a conservative approach to revenues and advocating for strong reserves, Gandhi also announced that Washington's "rainy day fund" now stands at $1.5 billion, the highest in seven years.

Gandhi's 15-year tenure is often considered instrumental in the District's financial improvements since the late 1990s, when the federal government had to step in to manage its budget through a control board.

His tenure was not without controversy, however, and he drew criticism for inadequate controls in an embezzlement case involving a tax office employee in 2007.

Mayor Gray, who recently re-appointed Gandhi to a five-year term, praised the CFO as "an exemplary steward of the District's finances for over a decade."

"Without his leadership, the District would not have experienced the extraordinary fiscal turnaround that we have seen in the last dozen years," Gray said in a statement.

Gandhi spokesman David Umansky said the CFO is retiring for "purely personal reasons."

The mayor's office said it "was too soon to say anything definite" about a replacement.

The head of the city council committee that will confirm the next CFO, Jack Evans, called Gandhi's resignation a loss, but said it "presents an opportunity to bring in a new perspective."

Evans said Gandhi had helped save millions of dollars in financing through his work to improve the District's ratings and to move it into issuing income tax bonds and variable rate debt.

"The credit rating agencies now have a very positive view of the District's financial position and our bond issuances are routinely oversubscribed and pay among the lowest interest rates among major cities," he said in a statement. "Dr. Gandhi's work has led to tangible savings."

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