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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Prince George's council to decide on new ethics office

During his campaign, Rushern Baker promised "comprehensive ethics reform" including prompt action, within his first thirty days in office, to establish an Inspector General position along with several specific actions aimed at reducing corruption and conflicts of interest.

Now, roughly 675 days after he took office--more than 22 times his promised 30 days--the council is taking up a weak, watered down ethics proposal that does NOT include his promised Inspector General nor many of his other promised reforms.

Ir is probably too much to hope for, but now is time for the council, especially the three members--Lehman, Davis, and Franklin--who joined in Baker's "Pledge for Prince George's County" to pass the reforms Mr. Baker promised even though Mr. Baker has broken his promises.

On Mon, Oct 15, 2012 at 9:57 PM, Arthur Turner arthurturner@verizon.net wrote:

Peace & Blessings,

It would be great to have a true ethics office. Will there be a "whistle blower" protection measure to protect county employees from being punished, castigated, or railroaded for reporting what they know? How high up will the ethics probes go? What measures will be put into place that insures the integrity of investigations and the process? In truth, some investigations should have already begun if we are sincere about weeding out fraud, graft, and illegal activity. I am waiting to hear about certain investigations or see if they are being squashed.

To great fanfare,  the county's Baker-convened Accountability, Compliance and Integrity Advisory Board was assembled, convened, and was tasked with making  recommendations.  Yet, one of the recommendations that was trumpeted and praised was the establishment of the office of Inspector General.  Now, Brad Frome is engaging in verbal gymnastics in his weak attempt to explain why an Inspector General is not needed.  Hmmm!  That does not sound wholly true to me.
For now, I will wait on the sidelines and watch to see if certain investigations, indictments, and arrests take place.  If they do not, we will know that the process and the processors are flawed.  There are things that quite a few people know about and have chosen to keep their powder dry on--for now. People do not want to embarrass the county and again make scandal the cause for the media doing a story about the county.

Peace & Blessings,
Arthur Turner


Prince George's council to decide on new ethics office
October 15, 2012

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker (Examiner file photo)
Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner
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Prince George's County could have a new ethics office next year if County Executive Rushern Baker's plan passes council scrutiny Tuesday.
The Office of Ethics and Accountability, first proposed in July, would handle tips of illegal activity or unethical conduct by county employees, conduct any investigations and oversee ethics training for other agencies. It would start out with a $376,000 budget and include an executive director appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the County Council along with two investigators.
Baker campaigned largely on ethics reform in 2010, saying he would create an inspector general's office to investigate waste, fraud and abuse in county government. Baker's predecessor, Jack Johnson, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison in 2011 for taking more than $1 million in bribes. His wife, County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, pleaded guilty to conspiring to tamper with witnesses and evidence after she was caught by FBI agents stuffing $79,600 in her bra and underwear and flushing a $100,000 check down a toilet.
Adding an inspector general was recommended in a 2011 report from the county's Baker-convened Accountability, Compliance and Integrity Advisory Board, which was headed by former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke.
According to Brad Frome, Baker's deputy chief of staff, an inspector general isn't necessary because some of those duties are already undertaken by other departments, including the Office of Audits and Investigations and CountyStat. The new ethics office, he said, can do the rest.
"If you look at inspector generals, they traditionally cover waste, fraud and abuse," Frome said. "We're focused on the fraud and abuse part."
The county has a Board of Ethics appointed by the county executive and approved by the council. Under the legislation, the new office's director would head the board, which investigated one complaint in 2011 and never met in 2010.
The new office would remain separate from the Office of Audits and Investigations.
"Audits and Investigations is more the financial side - 'Do these numbers add up?' " Frome said. "This would be more conduct-based."
If approved by the County Council, the office would likely open in the spring, Frome said.

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