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Baltimore officials to convene inspector general oversight panel following year of high-profile investigations

City officials will convene an oversight panel that monitors the work of Baltimore Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming next month, an announcement that comes during a year when she has faced public criticism from the subjects of her investigations.

The meeting will be the first time the panel has ever convened despite a legal requirement to do so once a year. That rule was enacted when authority over the inspector general’s office was moved from the mayor to an independent oversight board in 2019.

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City Solicitor Jim Shea, who chairs the panel, said the group will meet at 11 a.m. July 13 in a session that will be broadcast online. Shea said the group’s first meeting will be organizational and will kick off the oversight process. He expects the group to meet again.

“I’m not responding to critics or proponents of the OIG,” Shea said Tuesday. “I’m responding to what the charter says — that each year the review committee is to meet.”

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Cumming said she was “thrilled” to see the panel has set a date to meet, noting that she first asked for the group to convene in January 2019. She said she would like to see future meetings of the panel held in person.

“I do hope politics stay the heck out of this process,” she said. “Politics should have no part in the inspector general’s work.”

Cumming has been a target of criticism this year following an investigation she conducted into State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. The results of the seven-month probe, which was conducted at Mosby’s request, were released in February and focused on her travel. The report showed Mosby spent 144 days away from Baltimore in 2018 and 2019 — or one workday a week; Mosby’s office has disputed the number of days.

The inspector general also faulted Mosby for not requesting approval from the city’s spending panel for more than a dozen trips in 2018 and 2019. Nonprofit groups flew her to conferences in destinations such as Kenya, Scotland and Portugal. Private attorneys for Mosby argued that because the nonprofits — not taxpayers — paid for her travels, Mosby had no obligation to request approval.

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Shea reviewed the matter and concluded that Mosby was not required to seek approval because the city’s administrative policies are unclear. The mayor asked the solicitor and city administrators to recommend policy fixes that were recently approved by the Board of Estimates.

In April, the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP called on the city to convene the oversight panel in the wake of the probe.

Under the law, the oversight board includes at least five people: the mayor or his designee, the City Council president or his designee, the comptroller or his designee, the city solicitor or an appointed member of the city law department, and a member of City Council appointed by the council president. If the mayor and council president agree, two additional members take seats: the deans of the law schools at the University of Maryland and University of Baltimore.

It takes four votes to remove the inspector general from her six-year term if proper cause is shown.

Several members of the panel have appointed designees to sit in their place, according to a news release issued Tuesday by the mayor’s office. Michael Huber, Scott’s chief of staff, will serve in place of the mayor and City Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton will serve in place of Council President Nick Mosby. Nick Mosby is married to Marilyn Mosby.

Deputy Comptroller Erika McClammy has been designated to replace Comptroller Bill Henry. Additionally Councilman Eric Costello will serve as City Council’s representative on the board. Dean Donald Tobin of the University of Maryland School of Law and Dean Ronald Weich of the University of Baltimore School of Law also will fill the two optional seats on the board.

Shea said Scott and Nick Mosby agreed to seat the law school deans on the panel. Mosby could not be reached for comment.

During budget hearings earlier this month, Costello was the lone member of City Council who questioned a proposed pay increase for the inspector general during her appearance before the group. Cumming was paid $151,600 in 2021 and will make $183,200 in the 2022 fiscal year.

Cumming read from a letter stating that her position had been reclassified. “I in no way asked for this,” she said.

“I know there are a lot of city employees who wish they got a $32,000 pay increase without asking for it,” Costello responded.

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