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Baltimore County Inspector General Comes Under Fire From Council Members

John Lee
Purchases made at Baltimore County Ag. Center was the subject of an investigation by Inspector General Kelly Madigan. Credit: John Lee/WYPR

Some Baltimore County Council members accused the county’s inspector general of being an unprofessional, intimidating bully during a budget hearing on Wednesday.

One of Inspector General Kelly Madigan’s accusers, Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, has a professional relationship with the subject of a Madigan investigation.

Bevins, a Democrat, peppered Madigan with questions, ranging from how Madigan conducts her investigations to the cost of her business cards. Bevins said she’s heard complaints from people who have been questioned by Madigan.

“People from different parts of the county, different ages, different colors, different races, and they all told me the same thing that they felt very intimidated by you,” Bevins said.

Madigan disagreed with that assessment.

After the hearing, Bevins told WYPR Madigan interviewed her campaign treasurer, Chris McCollum, as part of an investigation of the Baltimore County Agricultural Center. McCollum was the center’s director from 2010 to 2019. He is now the county’s deputy director of economic development.

At the agricultural center, Madigan found that between 2013 and 2020, items totaling more than $38,000 were either purchased in a way that violated county policy or are missing.

Bevins questioned Madigan about why she investigated the purchases in the first place.

“And if that person’s supervisor never had a problem with that purchase, you shouldn’t,” Bevins said.

Madigan thanked Bevins for her comment.

Bevins responded, “You are not that person’s supervisor.”

In a text to WYPR, Bevins said Madigan did not tell McCollum why she was calling him in for questioning. In an interview, Madigan said that is not true.

Bevins tells WYPR that McCollum is resigning as her campaign treasurer so as not to put her in a bad light.

Republican Councilman Todd Crandell said he was taken aback by the line of questioning aimed at Madigan. Crandell reminded council members they voted in 2019 to create the inspector general’s office, adding his constituents want investigations of alleged waste and fraud.

“We’ve all heard the rumors of this person got paid to do this or this person looked the other way on this because it was their buddy, the old boy network,” Crandell said. “We’ve all heard it.”

Other council members joined in in the grilling of Madigan.

Council Chairman Julian Jones, a Democrat, said it appears as though the people being investigated by Madigan work for department heads who are African American women. Madigan said that is not the case.

“I just want to point out that I don’t control the complaints I receive,” Madigan told Jones.

Democrat Tom Quirk questioned Madigan about her access to county records, including employees’ emails.

“Do you have any limitation of time that you are going back into people’s emails, maybe go back 10 years, 20 years are you limiting the scope there?” Quirk asked.

Madigan responded, “Oh no. I can only retain the last 15 or 18 months.”

In an interview with WYPR, Madigan’s counterpart in Baltimore City, Isabel Mercedes Cumming said government emails don’t belong to the employees.

Cumming said, “So, when you work for a municipality, you always have to remember that we work for the citizens and we work for the taxpayers.”

Cumming, who Madigan has described as a friend and mentor, said she has read Madigan’s reports on her investigations and that she is uncovering real issues.

Madigan is the county’s first inspector general. With a staff of two including herself, she handles ethics training and financial disclosures for county employees, as well as investigations prompted by complaints. She is asking for a third position. By comparison, Cumming has a staff of 16. She said to be successful Madigan needs more people.

“It’s almost like it’s been set up for failure,” Cumming said.

During Wednesday’s hearing, it was noted that Madigan has no oversight commission that could hold her accountable. Madigan said she would welcome that and pointed out that she did not write the legislation that created the inspector general’s office. That was done by the county executive and the county council.

County Executive Johnny Olszewski picked Madigan for the job. In a statement to WYPR, Olszewski said he continues to support Madigan and wants her to get the third position which is in his proposed budget.

The only authority the county council has over Olszewski’s budget is to cut it. Council is scheduled to vote on Olszewski’s budget May 27.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2