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Baltimore County Inspector General Says Proposed Oversight Board Would Gut Her Autonomy

Baltimore County
Baltimore County Inspector General Kelly Madigan. Credit: Baltimore County

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski is proposing legislation to create an oversight board for the Inspector General’s office. Kelly Madigan, who’s been in the position for 18 months, said that would strip her independence to root out corruption and waste in county government.

The legislation also would change the access Madigan has to county records.

Calls for an oversight board came after Madigan was grilled by the County Council in May over her investigative practices. Madigan said the proposed changes would give the politically appointed seven-member board too much control over her office.

Three members would come from the administration. Two would come from the legislative branch. The remainder would be picked jointly by the county executive and the county council chairman.

The proposed legislation would require Madigan to notify the oversight board of the subject of a complaint and the purpose and scope of the investigation.

“The composition of the board and the duties and the responsibilities would chill any individual seeking to make a complaint to the inspector general’s office,” Madigan said.

“They would have to know that the inspector general would have to turn right around and tell perhaps the very people that are the subject of the complaint that they received the complaint, what the complaint is about, and how they’re going to investigate it.”

Republican Councilman Todd Crandell said the makeup of the proposed oversight board is like “the fox guarding the henhouse.”

Crandell said, “The bill sets up a situation where you have politicians and their appointees essentially telling an inspector general what they may investigate or not investigate.”

No one from the Olszewski administration was available for an interview..

In a written response to a question about the oversight board, Olszewski spokesman Sean Naron said the inspector general would provide a “courtesy notification to the oversight board. This will have no impact on the ability of the IG to perform their duties to investigate and identify fraud, waste and illegal acts.”

In a separate statement, Olszewski said the oversight board builds on his administration’s work for an open and accountable government. He said he looks forward to working cooperatively with the inspector general.

Madigan said the legislation also would restrict her access to county records.

“The prior statute gave unrestricted access to documents which is consistent with both the Association of Inspectors General as well as best practices throughout the state of Maryland and other states,” Madigan said. “This now changes that.”

The proposed legislation would limit Madigan’s access to protected, confidential or privileged documents under state or federal law.

Madigan said, “I asked them (the administration) what those documents were, if they could give me examples of those documents.”

Madigan said she still does not know what would be considered a protected, confidential or privileged document.

In a written response to that issue, Naron said, “Currently under existing statute, there is no protection for confidential or privileged information, such as attorney-client privilege personnel record, and retirement record.”

“The core function of the inspector general is to be independent and have the ability to do their job,” Madigan said. “This bill eliminates both of those.”

The legislation will be introduced to the county council on Tuesday. It will go to a public hearing on July 27 with a final vote expected on August 2.

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