Dear Association Members and Friends,
“You have enemies? Good. That means that you stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
A few years ago, I taught a class for some John Jay College students who all had designs on one day becoming an Inspector General. I asked them if they truly understood what they were signing up for. Were they willing to stand up for what was right, alone if necessary? Even if it meant making enemies? My advice to them was that if their answer to any of those questions was “no”, then they needed to pick another career. Shortly after I was appointed as Louisiana State Inspector General back in 2008, former Massachusetts and New Orleans IG Robert Cerasoli told me: “Stephen, if you do this job right, they will eventually try to shut you down.” Sure enough, in 2012 it happened, and there was a high-profile fight for the survival of the Louisiana IG. We won that fight with the help of ordinary citizens, good government groups, and a lot of media coverage. I am still here, still vigilant, and still doing my best to “do the job right” one day at a time.
What does “doing the job right” mean? I believe my colleagues in the IG community will agree that for starters, it means that when an IG gets a complaint, we don’t ask whether the subject of the complaint has friends in high places before we decide whether to investigate it. It means being strictly fact driven, without regard to politics. It means being in the evidence business, with one goal: to get to the truth, whatever it may be. It means choosing what is right over what is easy. All IGs understand that when you do that, it will rub some people the wrong way and trigger the sort of attacks that have become all too common in the IG community at large: lawsuits, efforts to restrict or dial back IG authority and access, attacks on funding and the like. It just goes with the territory. If you are effective, people are going to come after you. In my opinion, there can be no greater indication that an IG is doing the job well. I want to say how honored I am to be a member of this community of IGs who stand up for what is right, often in the face of great opposition. I am proud to call you my colleagues and friends.
On the Association front, I am pleased to report that the Institute in Virginia Beach was a great success, although many of us from the south were kept inside by the temperatures in the teens and howling wind coming off the beach. (My New York friends definitely had a few laughs at my expense). I did enjoy watching the snow pile up on the boardwalk and beach, though. In some respects, we were lucky that only 10 attendees had to cancel because of weather related travel problems. Still, the Institute was well attended with members of the IG community from all over the country and the world. We had 9 attendees from South Africa, 2 from Canada, and 1 each from Senegal and Indonesia. In addition, more than half of the US attendees worked for military IGs, with many from the Navy. The feedback from all who attended has been overwhelmingly positive.
We elected to hold this Institute in Virginia Beach, in part, to build our relationship with the Navy IG community. Although the mission of civilian and military IGs is different in many respects, there is no question that we all hold the same values as we work to ensure honesty and integrity in whatever we are tasked with overseeing. I want to personally thank Vice-Admiral James F. Caldwell for the support that the Navy gave to the Institute, and Dr. Tina Moreau, Assistant Navy IG and the President of the AIG Tidewater Chapter, who worked tirelessly to promote the Association with the Navy IG Community.
I also want to thank our Institute instructors for their dedication to the IG Institute, and the efforts of Executive Director Phil Zisman and AIG staff members Frank Chen and Jessica Cabrera for make sure everything ran smoothly. This was one of the highest rated institutes we have had, and it is amazing, given that all of our instructors are volunteers.
On the horizon, we are busy preparing for our upcoming 2015/16 membership renewal cycle, the May 2015 Board of Directors Meeting, the Summer 2015 IG Institute in Jacksonville, and the Fall 2015/16 Conference/Training Event in Detroit. The Association’s activities are event driven, and there is never any down time in our preparations for the next national program. Finally, the next edition of IG News will soon available for all members.
Keep on doing the job right, folks.
Stephen B. Street, Jr., AIG National President