“It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
Dear Association Members and Friends,
Those of you who are familiar with my career as both the Louisiana Inspector General and the AIG President may remember that I have had to fight some hard battles over the years to preserve the independence and integrity of my office. I know from long experience in the Inspector General profession that I am not alone. It simply comes with the territory in the IG business. If you do the job aggressively – and we have — folks will come after you. It’s absolutely guaranteed.
I was therefore not surprised to learn a few days ago of an effort to completely overhaul the Office of Inspector General in Baltimore County, Maryland. The Proposed Bill, if enacted, would completely strip the Baltimore County Inspector General of independence and authority in violation of well-established Green Book standards. Among the many problems with the proposed overhaul is the requirement that the IG obtain permission from an oversight board comprised of elected officials and political appointees before opening an investigation. It also stripped away most of the authority, confidentiality and access to records that the office now possesses. We were told that the County Executive planned to introduce the bill at the next Council meeting, scheduled for July 6, 2021.
As President, one of the things I am most passionate about is defending the IG concept whenever and wherever necessary. I believe AIG can and should step up publicly in these situations. Therefore, on July 5, 2021 — the day before the meeting — I submitted an Open Letter to the Baltimore County Executive and all members of the Baltimore County Council expressing grave concerns over the proposed legislation. I want to thank AIG Executive Director Greg Hill and Government Relations Chair David McClintock for their invaluable assistance and expertise in helping to get the letter drafted on such short notice.
As one would expect, the letter generated a lot of attention and discussion in the Baltimore press, mostly questioning why such a radical overhaul of the Inspector General was necessary. I am pleased to report that late on the afternoon of July 6, the County Executive announced that he was pulling the bill in order to have a working group study the issues more closely. It is unclear if or when the proposed bill will be introduced at a future meeting. Nevertheless, we will continue to monitor the situation going forward.
The main point we made was that Inspectors General with no independence or authority result in the mere appearance of oversight, which is much worse than no oversight at all. I will continue to fight to protect independent Offices of Inspector General whenever and wherever they come under attack. I remain honored to continue to lead this community of professional IG’s.
Stephen B. Street, Jr., AIG National President