A handful of Baltimore County residents, including a former Baltimore City watchdog official, spoke out Tuesday evening in support of the county government’s top overseer at a meeting held by the commission tasked with evaluating Inspector General Kelly Madigan.
The Blue Ribbon Commission on Ethics and Accountability took public comment for the first time at Tuesday evening’s virtual meeting, which came a day after it rebutted allegations that it had used subcommittee meetings to circumvent state transparency law and interview government officials and staff behind closed doors about their experiences with Madigan’s office.
Residents urged the commission to preserve Madigan’s independence, which they said was paramount to ensuring that she could continue to root out fraud, abuse and illegal acts in Baltimore County government.
“The Office of the Inspector General is not broken and does not need fixing,” said David Plymyer, a retired Anne Arundel County attorney who filed a complaint last month with the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board against the commission.
David McClintock, who was the Baltimore City inspector general from 2010 to 2013, concurred with Plymyer.
“What we hear from the citizens calling in tonight is a demand ... that the inspector general has to have independent legal counsel,” McClintock said.
Madigan, who was first appointed to her position in 2019, has clashed with members of the Baltimore County Council over tactics that some of them called aggressive. Olszewski withdrew a bill in July 2021 to reform her office that a national Inspectors General association said would have effectively “gagged and shackled” Madigan’s work.
Olszewski’s proposal would have created an oversight board that would have required Madigan to disclose any planned investigations and would have had the power to remove her from office and change her budget.
Instead, Olszewski formed the eight-member commission in October 2021 to examine county ethics laws and offer policy recommendations to Madigan’s office.
The commission discussed preliminary ideas for recommendations at Tuesday’s meeting, such as establishing an advisory board for the inspector general, strengthening her subpoena powers, reducing the time agencies had to produce records when Madigan requested them, and encoding the inspector general’s budget into the county charter.
Madigan’s office issued a report this month stating that the county had improperly paid a contractor $70,000 to repave an alleyway at the behest of its owner. County officials overrode objections from Department of Public Works and Transportation staff to direct the contractor to perform the work, Madigan said in her report.