City Paper Widget

Friday, April 3, 2015

DC Attorney General's Office Launches Charm Offensive at ANCs

In the quest for budget independence, representatives of newly-elected DC Attorney General Karl Racine stopped off at the regular monthly meetings of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) 2F/Logan Circle on Wednesday, April 1, and 1B/U Street last night, Thursday, April 2.

Representatives of the office pitched a plan that would allow the Attorney General's office to retain up to $20 million annually from settlements and awards it wins as a result of litigation.

"We want to keep some of the food we kill," said Vanessa Natale, chief of the Neighborhood and Victim Services Section of the Attorney General's Office at  ANC2F's meeting.

"What we're asking for is to be more independent," Natale also said.

Natale told the ANC the Attorney General's office was seeking the unusual funding arrangement in part to be able to hire more attorneys. The office currently has 275 attorneys, she said, and it needed another 75 attorneys to bring it up to size that similar offices have in cities of the same size.

The Attorney General's office also wished to strengthen its consumer protection division, she said, and be able to fund a proposed new "affordable housing" division.

Natale also compared the budget of the Attorney General's office -- about $55 million a year, or 1% of the District's overall budget -- with the amount of money the office ("a revenue-generating agency for the District government") takes in. For example, the Attorney General's office won an award of $60-90 million from online hotel companies who were booking hotel rooms without paying appropriate taxes.

A presentation submitted to the ANCs said: "This fiscal year, we project that we will recover or save the District more than a billion dollars."

At the ANC1B meeting last night, attorney Argatonia Weatherington, also of the Neighborhood and Victim Services Section of the Attorney General's Office, made a similar, but shorter, presentation, emphasizing that the Attorney General's Office sought "more independence" and "more autonomy". The Attorney General's office wished to retain a portion of settlements and awards in order to "expand the organization". Weatherington mentioned hiring 65-75 new attorneys.

The proposal must be approved by the DC Council. Natale said a hearing on the proposal is scheduled for April 22. Weatherington told ANC1B the hearing on April 27.

See a March 30 article from the Washington Post about Racine's proposal here.

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