A review by Baltimore’s inspector general found the city’s former deputy comptroller, who was discovered this summer shredding documents in City Hall, did not destroy paperwork relevant to an ongoing U.S. Department of Labor investigation of the comptroller’s office.
But Inspector General Isabel Cumming’s report Wednesday faulted Baltimore Police officers manning City Hall’s entrance for letting B. Harriette Taylor into the building without asking her for any city identification. The building is supposed to be mostly closed to outsiders because of restrictions intended to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The police department has opened an investigation into the incident, according to a Tuesday letter from Commissioner Michael Harrison.
Taylor’s use of a paper shredder in City Hall over two days in early August concerned city officials, especially given the labor department’s probe of Democratic Comptroller Joan Pratt’s office. Even the appearance of impropriety, City Solicitor Dana Moore said at the time, presented problems.
The incident prompted Moore to instruct the law department to take an oversight role in the transition between the administrations of Pratt and her likely successor, Democratic Councilman Bill Henry, to ensure documents relevant to any investigation were preserved and nothing important was lost. Henry is running unopposed.
Neither Taylor nor Pratt could be reached Wednesday for comment.
Taylor retired at the end of March, after more than two decades in Pratt’s administration. She had submitted her notice in January, about a month before Cumming says the federal agency contacted the office about an investigation into its labor and employment practices.
Taylor returned in August to City Hall, according to Cumming’s report, to clear out her office. When she entered, the officers working the security assignment did not ask her to show city credentials. She had turned hers in when she retired.
Once inside, Taylor shredded documents “she deemed would no longer be required by the current or future administrations,” the report said. She told the inspector general’s office that among the paperwork shredded were old job applications, outdated memorandums and duplicated documents.
Earlier in the summer, Moore had emailed city officials to advise them of guidelines for document retention “during this time of transition to a new mayoral administration and a new City Council term.” The offices of comptroller, City Council members, council president and mayor are up for election this year.
Moore’s letter noted that the destruction of government records is not permitted unless its done via an approved record retention schedule.
Cumming reported that city agencies don’t regularly communicate with the city archivist about document preservation.
She recommended the retention schedule be redistributed. The comptroller’s office “was not in possession of the Baltimore City Archives retention schedule,” Cumming wrote, “and therefore was not transferring all documents required.”
In a written response to the report, Pratt said city agencies had been alerted to the updated guidance and the most current retention schedule.
According to Cumming’s report, all documents requested by the federal labor department were submitted before Aug. 6. A supplemental request, after Aug. 7, also was fulfilled.
“Taylor’s actions did not disrupt or impede the investigation,” the report states.