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Charter amendment would replace elected Baltimore officials in OIG advisory board

Baltimore City Hall. Credit: Sarah Y. Kim/WYPR
Baltimore City Hall. Credit: Sarah Y. Kim/WYPR

The Baltimore City Council is considering a new charter amendment that would dramatically change who sits on the advisory board of the Office of the Inspector General.

The current advisory board includes the mayor, the city council president and the comptroller, or their designees, as well as the city solicitor, and the deans of the University of Maryland Law School and the University of Baltimore Law School.

District 14 Councilwoman Odette Ramos, who is introducing the amendment at Monday’s council meeting, is proposing a board with no elected officials or their designees, city or state employees, lobbyists, or anyone doing business with the city.

Ramos said the amendment would ensure there is no potential or perceived conflict of interest.

“It is not best practice to have elected officials on an entity overseeing an entity that could investigate us and our peers,” she said.

Instead, each of the 14 city council members would get to choose an eligible nominee for the board within their district. The council members’ districts are divided into five different groups. For example, Districts 1, 2, and 3 are in ‘Group 1.’ Five board members will be chosen at random, one from each group.

The Chair of the Ethics Board would also choose two more members at random, among names given by the Baltimore City Bar Association, the Association of Fraud Examiners, and the Association of Certified Public Accountants.

Ramos said she has been working on this amendment “for a while,” and that Baltimore is in the minority: most cities do not have elected officials sitting in an advisory board overseeing the inspector general’s office.

“I know it is a big deal for many of my constituents,” she said. “We want to make sure the Office of the Inspector General and the advisory board is one that the public can trust.”

If the amendment passes, voters will get to make the final call in November.

Correction: The audio version of this story incorrectly states the board would include four people chosen at random from city council member nominees. The correct number is five, as reflected in the digital post. 

Sarah Y. Kim is WYPR’s health and housing reporter. Kim is WYPR's Report for America corps member, and Anthony Brandon Fellow. Kim joined WYPR as a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. Now in her second year as an RFA corps member, Kim is based in Baltimore City.