IG Oversight Needs Transparent and Citizen-involved Approach

Indivisible Towson, a progressive grassroots, non-partisan organization with members from throughout Baltimore County, has urged County Executive John Olszewski, Jr. to expand his list of OIG work group members to include new, thoughtful voices. Their message to the County Executive follows.

Thank you, County Executive Olszewski, for withdrawing the proposed bill intended to, among other things, establish an Office of the Inspector General Oversight Board authorized to appoint and remove the Inspector General; affect funding related to certain legal or investigative assistance; modify qualifications for the Inspector General; amend funding procedures for the Office of Inspector General; redefine the powers, duties and responsibilities of Office of the Inspector General; and establish new rights and protections related to investigations of County employees by the Inspector General.

(By the way, we believe the term “Governing Board” [as opposed to “Oversight Board,” which connotes ‘second-guessing’ and thus an undermining of the independence of the Inspector General] established to ensure the independence of the Office of the Inspector General, as exists in in the Municipal Code of the City of Atlanta, better speaks to your intent of good governance.)

As you saw from the immediate backlash, many of your strongest supporters were aghast at the content of the proposed bill and the manner in which the public found out about it. The reaction was not about the appropriateness of some sort of Governing Board. Best practices, as indicated by the Association of Inspectors General and as implemented by cities such as Atlanta and New Orleans, make this a logical step as the County’s still-new Office of the Inspector General evolves.

Regrettably, the bill as it was proposed, seemed too reflective of the demeaning and disrespectful tirades, unjustified on a rational basis, observed during the extensively-covered OIG budget hearing. We applaud your approach to reconsidering the matter to include citizen input and wish to recommend a couple of names for you to consider appointing to such a work group. They may or may not qualify for appointment to an OIG Governing Board, but they are active, engaged, thoughtful County residents with reasoned judgement and with the best interests of Baltimore County at heart. Their participation in your proposed work group will add positively to the deliberation. Baltimore County would do well to engage the considered input from such individuals as policies and practices for an OIG Governing Board are developed, as the precursor to any future proposed legislation.

As is common practice under your administration, we would expect the meetings of such a work group would be open to the public and video-recorded, as are the meetings of the Affordable Housing and the Solid Waste Work Groups.

Thank you again for taking this more transparent and citizen-involved approach to improving the operation of an independent Office of the Inspector General. This is a goal that everyone supports.

Respectfully,

Indivisible Towson

Indivisible Towson is a non-partisan, progressive, grassroots organization that uses civic engagement and collaboration with like-minded organizations and individuals to further its basic aims of responsive and accountable government at all levels; social, environmental and economic justice, policies and laws that promote and protect the rights of all; defending democracy and the rights of every individual as written in the Constitution; and electing officials qualified for their roles and committed to making real, immediate, and concrete improvements in people’s lives.


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