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Baltimore County Council debates study of IG office

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

The Baltimore County Council is expected to vote Monday on a $100,000 consultant contract to help with a review of the county inspector general’s office.

But some council members have raised questions about the cost of that contract and why that study is necessary.

It’s another indication that the inspector general’s office continues to be an open sore in county government.

In October, County Executive Johnny Olszewski, a Democrat, announced he was forming an independent commission to study the inspector general’s office. This came after Inspector General Kelly Madigan had been criticized by two Democratic council members for her conduct in office.

Five months later, that commission still has not met. County Administrative Officer Stacy Rodgers told the county council last week that it's taken time to line up an organization outside county government to help the commission do its work.

“So that the commission can conduct this work independent from the administration,” Rodgers said.

Under the contract, the Schaefer Center for Public Policy at the University of Baltimore would be paid nearly $100,000 to give the commission administrative and research support.

But two Republicans asked why the examination of the inspector general’s office is happening in the first place.

Third District Republican Wade Kach, who represents the Hereford area asked, “What is really the purpose of this blue ribbon commission? Is there a problem that we’re trying to solve?”

Seventh District Republican Todd Crandell, whose district includes Dundalk asked, “Are we reinventing what the inspector general’s office does? I don’t get it.”

Democratic Councilwoman Cathy Bevins said an examination of the inspector general’s office is warranted.

“We have checks and balances for almost every agency, for every agency in the county,” Bevins said. “We answer to the taxpayers. Ms. Madigan answers to no one.”

It was Bevins, along with Democratic Council Chairman Julian Jones, who sharply questioned Madigan about her job performance at a budget hearing last May. It turned out Bevins’ campaign treasurer had been the focus of a Madigan investigation.

And WYPR obtained emails between Madigan and Olszewski’s chief of staff Patrick Murray that reveal an attempt last April to restrict Madigan’s access to records.

Chief Administrative Officer Rodgers said the administration is not trying to reinvent the office, but she added it has evolved.

Rodgers told the council, “We’re trying to take a thoughtful look at our operation, because we started out as one thing and now the office is an IG office when it initially was established as an office of Ethics and Accountability, which are really two different kinds of operations.”

But all that’s really changed is the inspector general’s job title.

Olszewski introduced legislation in 2019 which created the position of executive director of ethics and accountability. About a year later that was changed by the council to inspector general. Inspector General Madigan requested it, saying she needed the title to qualify for training and work sessions with other inspectors general.

Her authority to root out fraud, abuse and illegal acts in county government has not changed.

When it comes to the $100,000 contract the council will consider Monday night, Chairman Jones said it’s money well spent to make sure the inspector general’s office is being run properly.

“I don’t see an issue with that at all,” Jones said. “And I’m really curious about the questions as to why we all of a sudden have an issue.”

Madigan runs an office of three people, including herself. By comparison, the inspector general’s office in Baltimore City has five times as many employees.

Erica Palmisano, Olszewski’s press secretary, said Madigan is requesting three more positions in next year’s budget. County Executive Olszewski will present his budget to the council April 14.

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