Olszewski Will Ask County Council To Establish An Oversight Board For The Inspector General
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski will propose establishing an accountability board to oversee the county’s Inspector General.
Olszewski’s action comes after a grilling Inspector General Kelly Madigan received two weeks ago from members of the county council over her conduct in office.
Olszewski said Inspector General Madigan has his full support.
“It’s one of the first actions I took as county executive was to create the inspector general office to root out any waste fraud or abuse,” Olszewski said.
But during a fiery budget hearing council members questioned why Madigan, the county watchdog, has no one overseeing her and fielding complaints about her office. Olszewski said that is a clear gap in the existing law. He expects legislation to address that will be introduced in the next couple of months.
“It’s something that the IG has voiced her support for,” Olszewski said. “The council supports it. We support it because we believe in accountability for everyone, including the office that is tasked with accountability.”
Oversight boards are not universal. Baltimore City has one. Montgomery County does not.
Inspector General Madigan is supposed to be autonomous so she can do her job without fear of reprisal. But in reality, she is beholden to both the county executive and the county council for her department’s $354,000 budget.
Gregory Hill, the Executive Director of the Association of Inspectors General, said that’s how it is across the country. Some localities give the inspectors general their budgets with no strings attached.
Hill said, “We’ve seen other agencies that use that funding mechanism as a threat or a leash if you will to control the inspector generals by cutting staffing, supplies, computers, vehicles for investigators, things of that nature.”
The council agreed to Madigan’s request to add a third person to her staff. But first, during a contentious budget hearing, Councilwoman Cathy Bevins zeroed in on how Madigan conducts herself during investigations, how she deploys her staff and how much she spends on her business cards. Bevins asked to see one.
“Can you hold one up for me please?” Bevins asked Madigan. “No need to roll your eyes. I’m just asking to let me see your business card.”
Bevins asked Madigan why she paid $108, more than double the usual rate for 500 cards, to get writing on the back. Madigan said other inspectors general advised her to do that to make room for a phone number and email address for anonymous tips. Bevins wasn’t satisfied.
“I’m not comfortable with you spending an additional $59 on your business cards, more than the county executive, the county council or anyone else who carries a business card in Baltimore County.”
Bevins did not disclose during the hearing that Madigan interviewed her campaign treasurer, Chris McCollum, as part of an investigation of the Baltimore County Agricultural Center. McCollum was the ag center director from 2010 to 2019. He’s now the county’s deputy director of economic development.
Bevins told WYPR at the time that her connection to McCollum factored into her questioning Madigan, who Bevins said was not forthright with her answers to the council.
Bevins, as well as Council Chairman Julian Jones, both Democrats, said Madigan intimidates county employees she has interviewed during investigations.
Jones said the inspector general position “was never intended to make employees so scared to come to work they can’t do their jobs.”
Gregory Hill with the Association of Inspectors General cautioned that these are generalized allegations against Madigan rather than specific, documented complaints.
“It usually in my experience is more of a distracting effort as opposed to a legitimate complaint, because if they’re legitimate complaints they’re usually detailed and factual,” Hill said.
During the hearing, council members coalesced around the idea of an oversight board for Madigan.
Councilman Izzy Patoka, a Democrat, said it’s difficult to create a new agency.
“We’re all learning about this new office and how it should be operating,” Patoka said.
Madigan is the county’s first inspector general. She was nominated by Olszewski then approved by the county council in January 2020.