We encourage Baltimore City voters to vote “Yes” on Question F, a Charter Amendment that would create an independent Office of the Inspector General. Mayor Catherine Pugh and the Baltimore City Council publicly support passage of Question F. The city’s voters need to do their part and pass this ballot measure.
Under the ballot measure, the Office of Inspector General would be transformed from a unit supervised by the City Solicitor created by an O’Malley era executive order into an independent unit of city government recognized in the City Charter. It would be separately funded and headed by an Inspector General appointed to a six year term by an advisory board that has the sole hiring and firing authority. The statute divides appointments to the advisory board between the Mayor and City Council with an option to appointment the law school deans at the University of Baltimore and University of Maryland.
The purpose is to remove elected officials from the direct selection of the head of the watchdog agency. The Inspector General would operate independent of the mayor’s control with its own budget and the power to issue subpoenas, as well as the statutory obligation to issue a public report.
The current Office of Inspector General has investigated and pursued high profile public official misconduct cases, always under the eye of the City Solicitor, who has the power to influence investigations and must approve and issue any subpoenas requested by the Inspector General. In turn, the Solicitor General answers to the Mayor. While it is publicly reported that Mayor Pugh and the City Council have given the current Inspector General wide berth to pursue investigations, this power to influence is to be eliminated under Question F.
An independent Inspector General will not solve the problems of crime in the city. Much work has to be done, starting with Mayor Pugh choosing the strongest candidate for police commissioner who will be most likely to survive and provide leadership for years. That has not been the recent history. Baltimore continues to face a policing crisis. Police officers soldier on trying to keep a lid on the ongoing violent crime without any real success. At the same time, police officers struggle under the heavy yoke of public discontent often bordering on disgust after years of a steady news diet of police corruption or worse.
It is our hope that a newly empowered Inspector General will use the investigative powers of the office to pursue, among other things, misconduct cases in the Baltimore City Police Department in an effort to root out corruption and empower responsible policing with the goal of restoring public trust and improving community cohesion in the fight against violent crime.
Editorial Advisory Board member Arthur F. Fergenson did not participate in this opinion.
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
James B. Astrachan, Chair
James K. Archibald
John Bainbridge Jr.
Wesley D. Blakeslee
Arthur F. Fergenson
C. William Michaels
Angela W. Russell
Debra G. Schubert
H. Mark Stichel
The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the Board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the Bench, Bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, majority views and signed rebuttals will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.