The Baltimore chapter of the NAACP is publicly questioning the objectivity and competency of the city inspector general’s office after its report this month on the travels and private companies of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
In an email made public Thursday, chapter leaders asked for a meeting with the inspector general and her staff.
“We have significant concerns about how your office conducts investigations and applies its authority,” wrote the Rev. Kobi Little, the chapter president. “We are concerned about the targeting of African American elected leaders, as well as African American vendors who contract with Baltimore City.”
Mosby, who is Black, requested the investigation last summer amid questions about her travels and private business dealings.
Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming said she welcomed the chance to meet with NAACP leaders and was working to set a date.
She and her deputy said they were surprised to receive the email Wednesday just 15 minutes before Little and others were to present their concerns to reporters outside City Hall. They called off the news conference after they were drowned out by a rally to reopen city strip clubs.
“I’m anxious for the opportunity to discuss any matters they may have about our office and the way we conduct investigations,” said Michelle Phillips, the assistant inspector general for investigations.
NAACP leaders wrote that the “tipping point” for their criticism was the inspector general’s Feb. 9 report on Mosby. It said Baltimore’s top prosecutor should have sought approval before accepting plane tickets and hotel rooms from nonprofit organizations that invited her to conferences.
The acting city solicitor reviewed the matter and agreed in a Feb. 18 opinion that approval wasn’t necessary because the city’s administrative policies are unclear. Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott asked the solicitor and city administrators to develop recommended fixes within 90 days.
Two years ago, Baltimore voters overwhelmingly approved a charter amendment intended to expand the investigatory powers of the inspector general. Authority over the office was moved from the mayor to an independent oversight panel that is to meet at least once a year to review its performance.
However, Democratic City Councilman Ryan Dorsey, who sponsored the legislation that led to the charter amendment, said Thursday that panel has never met.
The law specifies that it be made up of at least five people: the mayor or his designee, the City Council president or his designee, the city 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 may take seats: the deans of the law schools at the University of Maryland and University of Baltimore.
The inspector general serves a six-year term and under the law may only be removed by the panel for “misconduct in office,” “persistent failure to perform the duties of office” and “conduct prejudicial to the proper administration of justice.” At least four members of the panel must vote to fire an inspector general.
Dorsey and Dean Ronald Weich of the University of Baltimore School of Law said they sit on the panel. Dorsey said Scott appointed him last year when Scott was council president.
Last fall, Scott was elected mayor and Nick Mosby, Marilyn Mosby’s husband, was elected council president. And this week, Nick Mosby sent out a message to his wife’s political supporters from her political campaign, declaring she had been “vindicated” following the inspector general’s investigation.
The Democratic council president declined to comment Thursday.
The city solicitor is the panel’s chair. Acting City Solicitor Jim Shea, who has served about a month in office, declined to comment.
Scott did not respond to questions.
At the time Marilyn Mosby asked Cumming to investigate seven months ago, the Democratic prosecutor said she believed the inspector general’s findings would put questions about her travel and finances to rest.
Cumming found Mosby traveled as a guest of criminal justice nonprofits to locations such as Kenya, Portugal and Scotland. Cumming wrote that although Marilyn Mosby generally reported her travels in ethics disclosures, she should have sought approval from the Baltimore Board of Estimates beforehand.
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Cumming was hired in January 2018 as the first woman and first Latina to serve as inspector general for Baltimore. Cumming makes $178,000 a year.
Some members of the oversight panel expressed confidence in Cumming.
“She does exactly what is intended and I’m very happy with the integrity and outcome of her work,” Dorsey said.
Weich, the law school dean, said he had “absolutely no reason to doubt the integrity and effectiveness of Inspector General Cumming. She is a diligent public servant and I have confidence in her work.”
Bill Henry, the Democratic city comptroller who, like Scott and Nick Mosby, took office in December, said he “has faith in the inspector general to carry out her duties.” He said he looks forward to the required annual review of the inspector general’s office.
In the NAACP’s letter to the inspector general, Little wrote that the group’s concerns go beyond the investigation into Marilyn Mosby.
“Reports from the office of the inspector general seem to lack context, omit relevant details and misrepresent facts in ways that are harmful and do not engender the public’s trust,” Little wrote.