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Panel tasked with overseeing Baltimore’s inspector general never met in 2019 as mandated by law

An advisory board tasked with overseeing Baltimore’s inspector general’s office and assessing the appropriateness of its budget has never met since being written into the city charter in 2018, despite a legal requirement that it convene at least once a year, city officials acknowledged this week.

City Councilman Ryan Dorsey, who introduced the voter-approved 2018 measure that separated the inspector general from the mayor’s office and established the requirement for the advisory panel, said City Solicitor Andre Davis, who is by law the chair of the panel, is responsible for the failure. Davis said he’s waiting on Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and City Council President Brandon Scott to fill out the panel before he convenes it — which Dorsey dismissed as an excuse.

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“As the chair, it is unmistakable that the ball is in the city solicitor’s court,” Dorsey said Friday — echoing a letter he sent to Davis on Thursday.

Inspector General Isabel Cumming said she’s happy to meet whenever the panel is convened. “We’re looking forward to it,” she said.

By law, the five-member advisory board includes the solicitor as chair, the mayor or his designee, the council president or his designee, the comptroller and a member of the City Council appointed by the president. It may also include the deans of the University of Maryland and University of Baltimore law schools, if the mayor and the president both agree to have them and they both agree to join.

Davis said Friday that he is waiting on Young to identify his designee to the panel, and for Young and Scott to “express their concurrence” on whether to invite the law school deans to join the panel.

“Meanwhile, the OIG is doing a superb job," Davis said.

Lester Davis, a spokesman for Young, said the mayor is “in the process” of appointing a designee to the panel. He did not know when that choice would be made.

Dorsey, who Scott named as the council representative to the panel earlier this month, said dawdling over designee appointments or whether to include the law school deans were not good reasons not to convene the board as mandated. The deans don’t have to be part of the panel, and Young, if he has yet to identify a designee, should simply be there himself, Dorsey said.

“If the chair convenes the board and a member neglected to show or have their designee show, that’s on the member, but it is 100 percent the role of the chair to convene the board,” he said.

Stefanie Mavronis, a spokeswoman for Scott, said Friday that he agrees with Dorsey’s read on the status of the board.

“We would just ask the administration and the mayor, instead of pointing the finger here, to just make their pick so that this important board can get to work,” Mavronis said.

Dorsey said he agrees that Cumming and her staff are doing a great job, but the office could be taking on more work soon, in part because of additional oversight roles designated to it by recent ethics legislation he is backing. The panel needs to do its job reviewing Cumming’s budget — and potentially suggest to the Board of Estimates that it be increased — before the city finalizes its next fiscal budget in the coming months, he said.

“I would say the most critical role of this board is to review the office’s budget to assess whether it is sufficient to perform the duties of the office,” Dorsey said.

Cumming, whose current budget is about $1.7 million, said she has been talking with Davis about the panel in recent months and is eager to provide it with any information it needs whenever it convenes.

“Everything about me is trying to be transparent, so that’s why I keep issuing reports and making sure people know what’s going on,” she said.

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She said her office, which has 16 personnel assigned to it and investigates city operations and fiscal management, is on track to receive between 800 and 900 hotline complaints this year. All her agents have multiple cases they are working on at any given time, she said.

“We are not hurting for work,” she said.

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