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Olszewski appoints commission to study inspector general’s office

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. Credit: Baltimore County

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Tuesday named two judges and the executive director of Common Cause Maryland to a panel to review county ethics laws and policies but is aimed at examining the office of the inspector general.

Earlier this year, Olszewski proposed establishing an oversight board for the inspector general. That idea came under withering fire from council members and others, including Inspector General Kelly Madigan, who said it would gut her authority to root out corruption in county government.

Olszewski withdrew that proposal and will take another swing at it with the commission he’s appointing.

“It’s something that I would have done differently then and we are doing differently now,” Olszewski said. “But that’s what this administration has always been about, listening to the people we represent and we’ve subsequently responded with a robust, thoughtful process. So, we are in fact doing things differently. We are being responsive to the people we serve.”

Olszewski wants an interim report from the eight-member commission, with recommendations, by July of 2022, but he said his administration won’t necessarily wait until then to make changes.

“If there are clear and compelling changes that we should make sooner, we certainly encourage them to do that,” Olszewski said.

In a statement to WYPR, Inspector General Madigan wrote, “The office of the inspector general welcomes the new commission to Baltimore County and looks forward to the commission bringing best practices to our office.”

Under the proposal Olszewski scrapped, the inspector general’s oversight board would have been made up mostly of people from his administration or from the legislative branch. Madigan said at the time the makeup of the board would “chill any individual seeking to make a complaint to the inspector general’s office.”

Olszewski said the blue-ribbon commission that will examine the county’s ethics laws and policies will be independent, and its meetings will be open to the public.

“This was about identifying really top-notch people with strong diversity of experiences and backgrounds to serve in this role and to serve on this blue-ribbon commission for ethics and accountability,” Olszewski said.

The commission members include:

· Judge Joseph Murphy, who is a former Maryland Court of Appeals judge. He will chair the commission.

· Joanne Antoine, Executive Director, Common Cause Maryland

Thomas X. Glancy, Esq., President-elect of the Board of Directors for ACLU of Maryland’s Public Justice Center

· Brigadier General Janeen L. Birckhead, Assistant Adjutant General of the Maryland Army National Guard

· Judge Kathleen Cox, Former Baltimore County Circuit Court Administrative Judge

· William E. Johnson, Jr., Former Inspector General for the Maryland Department of Human Resources

· Jon Laria, Esq., Managing Partner of Ballard Spahr

· Cindy Leppert, Esq., Chair of Baltimore County’s Ethics Commission

In her statement to WYPR, Madigan said, “The office was pleased to learn that someone with an exemplary reputation such as Judge Murphy was chosen to lead the commission, and that all the members selected will bring with them a great deal of experience and integrity that will no doubt benefit the citizens of Baltimore County.”

The office of Baltimore County Inspector General was created by Olszewski. He promised to create the position when he was running for county executive in 2018. Madigan was nominated by Olszewski for the job and approved by the county council in January 2020.

This story was updated to include comments from Inspector General Madigan.

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