The County Council is considering proposed legislation that would modify the powers and duties of the county’s inspector general.
If passed, the bill introduced during Tuesday’s council meeting would:
- modify requirements regarding the removal of the inspector general;
- modify requirements regarding the projected budget of the inspector general;
- modify the official’s powers and duties;
- modify access to information by the inspector general; and
- generally amend laws regarding the inspector general and Office of the Inspector General.
County Senior Legislative Attorney Christine Wellons said the bill was requested by Inspector General Megan Limarzi, and that several of the proposed changes are necessary due to the number of council members changing from nine to 11 in 2023.
“It is simply a cleanup measure. It’s not in any way reducing the abilities of our inspector general. Quite the opposite … there are important clarifications to strengthen her powers to investigate fraud and abuse from the government,” Wellons told the council.
For example, one change the bill proposes is that seven council members would have to vote to remove the inspector general from office, as opposed to the six votes currently required.
This bill would also clarify that the inspector general is entitled to any document or information related to county business from each officer, employee and contractor of the 83 departments, offices and agencies in the county, not just from the departments.
The bill is co-sponsored by Council Members Nancy Navarro, Andrew Friedson and Sidney Katz.
Navarro dispelled rumors that there was something untoward about the bill.
“It has been brought to my attention that there was at least one particular blog post that I think mistakenly has interpreted the content of this bill. It makes accusations, etc., in terms of the powers of inspector general and makes some allegations that the council is trying to somehow revoke the power of the inspector general specifically as it relates to the [Montgomery County] Planning Board,” Navarro said. “And I think more than ever, it’s so important to ensure that we put forth clarifying statements which we have done here because misinformation and disinformation does nothing to help our constituents understand certain processes or decisions.”
Other changes the bill would make are:
- aligning the inspector general’s deadline for submitting an initial budget with the deadline to submit an initial work plan, making both due six months after the inspector general’s appointment;
- explicitly including within the inspector general’s powers the ability to conduct “compliance” audits;
- using inclusive language by replacing references to “citizens” with “residents”;
- inserting more specific language regarding the inspector general’s access to audits done by or on behalf of the county;
- streamlining and clarifying processes and powers regarding subpoenas;
- removing a procedure required before the inspector general may issue a subpoena to eliminate any potential taint or influence over evidence and ensure no testimony could be categorized as compelled;
- adding protections for anyone, including residents, against retaliation for making a report to the inspector general; and
- removing from the scope of the law the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commissionand the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission because each now has its own inspector general under state law.
A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Nov. 1 at 1:30 p.m.