Baltimore County's Inspector General Says She's Shorthanded | WYPR

Baltimore County's Inspector General Says She's Shorthanded

Dec 14, 2020

Baltimore County Inspector General Kelly Madigan
Credit Baltimore County

Baltimore County’s first inspector general is pleading for help from county officials.

As she wraps up her first year in office, Kelly Madigan said she does not have the people she needs to find waste, fraud and abuse in county government and to keep its employees in line with ethics rules.

When Madigan started work in January, she had a staff of one, herself. She didn’t have a permanent office.

And she had a crummy job title.

Rather than inspector general, she was the executive director for the office of ethics and accountability. That’s a mouth full and it locked her out of training and work sessions she could get with other inspectors general.

“Because they said based on my statute I wasn’t an inspector general,” Madigan said.

Now she is, thanks to a name change she asked for and received from the county council. She also has her own office now and has added one investigator.

Compare that to the 16 people who man Baltimore City’s Inspector General’s office, which is headed by Isabel Mercedes Cumming. Madigan said Cumming is a mentor who is giving her advice as she creates the county office.

Cumming said Madigan’s job is extremely difficult because she’s had to start from scratch.

“And she still doesn’t have an administrative assistant,” Cumming said of Madigan. “That’s crazy to me. That’s crazy. That needs to change.”

Cumming said she would love to sit down with e County Executive Johnny Olszewski to discuss how to make the office work.

Cumming said, “If you want this to really be effective to the people, you have to put the resources behind it.”

“It” is actually two things Madigan is responsible for.

One is the headline grabbing part of rooting out waste and fraud. The other is the behind the scenes grunt work to make sure the county’s 8,000 employees are following ethics guidelines.

Madigan said it’s shocking how few of those employees have received basic ethics training. She said that needs to change.

“Every single Baltimore County employee, and the members of the boards and commissions should have some basic ethics training,” Madigan said.

She has a goal of making that happen by next September using an online ethics course she created.

Then there are the county’s old school financial disclosure forms.  Those county employees who have to submit them do it with pen and paper.

“They were scanned back, and kind of kept in a binder, the financial disclosures for the year,” Madigan said. “It makes it kind of difficult to review them.”

Madigan plans to move all of that online by the spring. She said 200 county employees have had to submit financial disclosure forms and that number is going to more than double.

Madigan said she needs money to beef up her office to give it teeth. For starters, she could use two people working on ethics alone. But in order to justify additional funds, she needs to root out waste and fraud in the county.  For example, this fall, acting on a tip, she found 20 county employees are improperly double dipping, collecting both a salary and a pension. Cost to the county: between $1 and $2 million. What to do about that is now up to Olszewski.

“Our team is already pouring over the report that was released and action will be taken to remedy that” Olszewski said.

Meantime, those 20 employees continue to collect both a salary and a pension. A county spokesman said they are doing a case-by-case review of those employees.

Madigan said she is giving the administration time to digest her report on the double dipping, but that she will be following up.

“Just because I’ve issued the report, in my mind, that doesn’t mean that the investigation and the case is over,” Madigan said.

You can report fraud, waste, misconduct, or an ethics violation on the Baltimore County Inspector General’s website.

Madigan was a state prosecutor before Olszewski picked her to be Inspector General. He created the office as part of his effort to make county government more transparent and accountable. His predecessor, former County Executive Don Mohler, said Olszewski recognized the county has been behind the curve on that.

“What County Executive Olzewski’s done is a start,” Mohler said. “But it’s going to take a while to build up the capacity in that office to rival our neighboring jurisdictions.”

Olszewski said he wants Madigan’s office to have more people and will hash it out with the county council when they get to work on next year’s budget.