Baltimore County Council members approved paying a contractor $99,000 to help review ethics laws and study the inspector general’s office.
The vote was 6-1. Councilman Todd Crandell, a Republican from Dundalk, opposed the agreement with the University of Baltimore’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy, calling the contract sought by County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s administration “wholly unnecessary.”
The role of the county inspector general — whose mission is to identify fraud, abuse and illegal acts in government — has been a politically contentious subject.
Last summer, Olszewski, a Democrat, proposed limiting the authority of Inspector General Kelly Madigan and creating a board to oversee her office, but faced a backlash.
Olszewski later announced the Blue Ribbon Ethics and Accountability Commission. The group’s duties include reviewing county laws on ethics and the inspector general’s office, studying best practices and making recommendations for possible changes.
Under the contract approved Monday, the Schaefer Center will help that commission with research, writing its report and other tasks. The center also will conduct a best-practices study of inspector general offices, and an “ethics climate survey” of county employees and officials.
At a council work session last week, Crandell said he didn’t understand why the county should hire consultants.
“Are we reinventing what the inspector general’s office does?” he asked.
County Administrative Officer Stacy Rodgers told the council at that meeting that the aim wasn’t to reinvent the inspector general’s office. She said the consultants would serve as a “neutral third party” so the commission can conduct its work independently.
“We need to ensure that it is an independent process,” she said.
The commission has not started its work, Rodgers said.
The Morning Sun
At the meeting Monday, Crandell again questioned the need to hire a contractor. The Association of Inspectors General, a national group, already has published guidelines on how such offices should operate, he said.
“I just find that this is a waste of a lot of people’s time, a waste of a lot of people’s money,” Crandell said of the contract.
Council Chairman Julian Jones called the review “a good idea.”
“I don’t see where the issue is,” said Jones, Woodstock Democrat. “It’s done in an attempt to make our inspector general better.”
Councilmen Wade Kach, a Cockeysville Republican, and Izzy Patoka, a Pikesville Democrat, both said they hope the inspector general’s office will be sufficiently funded when Olszewski releases his budget proposal later this month.
“In my opinion, they are woefully understaffed and need additional resources in order to do the job,” Kach said.
Madigan declined to comment to The Baltimore Sun on the Schaefer Center contract.