WASHINGTON -- The Government Finance Officers Association is planning to move its research arm from Washington to its Chicago headquarters next year, the association's executive director, Jeffrey L. Esser, said yesterday.

The decision was made by the association's executive board at a meeting last month, Mr. Esser said. The board wanted the research center to be "closer to other operations of the GFOA so it can better relate to" the group's training, software, publications, and conference functions, he added.

The move will probably take place sometime during July, Mr. Esser said.

The lobbying arm of the association, the Federal Liaison Center, will remain in Washington, headed by Catherine L. Spain, Mr. Esser said. "We will maintain a strong presence in Washington through our federal liaison center," Mr. Esser said.

News of the change comes two months after the association announced John Petersen, senior director of the research center, had taken an indefinite leave of absence to travel and write on public finance matters. Mr. Petersen had been with the center for 17 years.

Mr. Esser described Mr. Petersen's status as continuing on sabbatical, and said there is still no date set for Mr. Petersen's return. But Mr. Esser added that he is recruiting for a new research center head to work in Chicago. The decision to move the research center was made after Mr. Petersen began his leave, Mr. Esser said.

The research center is staffed by 15 professionals and about 10 clerical employees. The professional staff will be given the opportunity to move to Chicago and continue working for the center, Mr. Esser said.

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