The Baltimore chapter of the NAACP is calling on city leaders to convene a meeting of the board that oversees the inspector general’s office after its recent investigation of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
The Rev. Kobi Little, president of the local NAACP, circulated a letter to board members in which he writes that he’s troubled after reading that the oversight board has never met. The Baltimore Sun reported in February the lack of meetings.
“The public must have the confidence that there is effective oversight of the OIG [Office of the Inspector General] which will prevent runaway investigations and hold the OIG accountable to the highest levels of impartiality and competence,” Little wrote on March 1.
He released his letter publicly Monday, saying he has received no response from city leaders.
“Here you have an agency that is given a great amount of authority to investigate and report findings on many, many aspects of life in Baltimore around fraud, waste and abuse, " he said in an interview, “and for two years it hasn’t been operated according to the law.”
Authority for the office was moved two years ago from the mayor to an independent oversight board that’s supposed to meet at least once a year and review the inspector general’s performance. The board has not met.
Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming said she welcomes such a meeting.
“I’ve been encouraging this meeting,” she said. “I would hope that whenever it convenes that it’s open to the public because the office is basically the people’s investigator.”
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: deans of law schools at the University of Maryland and University of Baltimore.
“We have been in the process of convening a meeting and expect to do so,” City Solicitor Jim Shea said Tuesday.
Mayor Brandon Scott would welcome a meeting, according to his spokesman.
“Regaining trust in City Hall requires accountability and transparency, so the Mayor fully supports the convening of an advisory board,” spokesman Calvin Harris wrote in an email.
Comptroller Bill Henry plans to designate someone to serve on the board in his place because he works closely with Cumming, “so as to maximize objectivity in the review of the OIG’s work,” spokeswoman K.C. Kelleher wrote.
The NAACP’s Little and Cumming have been at odds since the inspector general released the results in February of her seven-month investigation into the Baltimore state’s attorney. Baltimore’s top prosecutor requested the investigation, saying she believed the findings would put to rest questions about her private businesses and far-flung travels.But after the report was released, Little questioned the objectivity and competency of the inspector general and sent Cumming a letter to ask for a meeting.
“We have significant concerns about how your office conducts investigations and applies its authority,” he wrote. “We are concerned about the targeting of African American elected leaders, as well as African American vendors who contract with Baltimore City.”
The two sides met privately about a month ago. They have not discussed how it went.
“There has been nothing that the inspector general has said or done prior to our meeting, during our meeting, or subsequent to our meeting that has allayed any of the concerns that we raised,” Little said in the interview Tuesday.
Cumming declined to comment.
“I agreed not to discuss the meeting, and I will stand by that,” she said.
Maryland Policy & Politics
Last week, she announced that her office has hired City Hall veteran Anthony McCarthy to aid its communication and equity efforts. McCarthy has worked as spokesman for three mayors — Democrats Sheila Dixon, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Catherine Pugh — and he’s served as a leader in the local chapter of the NAACP.
Cumming’s report on Mosby found she 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.
The city solicitor reviewed the matter and sided with Mosby, finding she 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 within 90 days.
Mosby’s office has said the State Ethics Commission also reviewed her travels and found no fault. The commission has said it does not comment on its work.
Meanwhile, The Sun reported last month that federal prosecutors opened a criminal tax investigation into Mosby and her husband, City Council President Nick Mosby. Investigators issued subpoenas for the couple’s financial records, including documents related to their political campaigns, private businesses and charitable donations. The investigators were led into City Hall last month by Cumming, according to surveillance footage obtained by The Sun.
Their attorney has said the couple has done nothing wrong, and called the federal investigation “a political witch hunt.”