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Baltimore IG's year-in-review uncovers millions in wasteful spending, savings

Posted at 3:34 PM, Sep 30, 2020

BALTIMORE — Baltimore City's Inspector General, Isabel Mercedes Cumming, on Wednesday released an annual report summarizing the outcome of investigations conducted by her office thus far in fiscal year 2020.

The OIG received 751 hotline complaints and issued 47 reports that found a combined $2,986,929 in wasteful spending and savings.

In the last year, her team of investigators have uncovered scandals impacting the highest offices in city government including the mayor, multiple city agencies, and schemes skimming money from taxpayers through contracts, falsified overtime, or mismanagement.

Nearly three years into her term, Cumming refers to herself as the people’s investigator.

"What the people want us looking into is usually what we look at," said Cumming.

And there hasn’t been a shortage of tips. In the last three years, hotline complaints have quadrupled from 184 complaints in 2018 to 751 in 2020.

"In about a six week time period, we issued 10 reports and it was about a million dollars in waste," Cumming said.

There are several ways to report financial fraud, waste or abuse to the OIG.

  1. Call the hotline at 443-984-3476 or 1-800-417-0430
  2. Email a completed Complaint Form below to OIG@baltimorecity.gov
  3. Fill out the Complaint Form, and mail it to 100 North Holliday Street, Room 635, Baltimore, MD 21202

Most importantly, she views the office as independent following a referendum approved by voters in the 2018 election.

"Our job is to shed a light on what’s going on in city government and to do it as objectively and as non-political as humanly possible. That’s what matters to me," said Cumming.

The award-winning fraud fighter has a new challenge starting next month where she will serve as the executive director of the Ethics Board, a group charged with ensuring officials and employees serve the public with fairness and independence, but had absolutely no budget. Effective October 10, there will be three employees solely focused on this mission in a newly renovated space in City Hall.

"For the first time ever, we reviewed all 3,000 financial ethical disclosure forms and we wrote back to about 500-600 people telling them you missed this, you have to fill this out. That had never been done before. We realized 200 members of city government hadn’t even known they were supposed to fill it out," said Cumming. "And I think that will make real difference, we have to. I mean ethics have to be the foundation of making a strong government in Baltimore."

In a city with a long history of questionable ethics, Cumming said simply promoting her office has made a difference.

"Knowing that the OIG is there and looking over your shoulder sometimes is the best deterrence possible," she said.

While in the background, her investigators continue to chip away at corruption.

"We’re trying to turn the Titanic in a way, and we’re getting there, but it’s mostly because the people are giving us the tools we need to make it happen," said Cumming.

In her annual report, Cumming highlighted the following investigations, which were covered by WMAR-2 News in the news reports below:
OIG urges city to halt dealings with Pugh donor JP Grant

IG: City worker approved thousands in unauthorized tow payments

OIG Report: Improper contract, vehicle lease leads to "excessive and unnecessary" costs to the city

Inspector General: Baltimore City spent $100k+ on unused phones for three years

OIG: DPW employee kept nearly $50k in city checks on desk for years

Free parties, missing money leads to Baltimore Shake and Bake director's firing

OIG report alleges two former city workers conspired to steal thousands in equipment

OIG: Joan Pratt voted 30 times despite potential conflicts of interest on BOE deals

OIG: Comptroller Joan Pratt admits her vote in city, church land deal was conflict of interest

Baltimore City OIG report reveals thousands in grant money misspent

Inspector General report reveals DOT employee filed false overtime hours

Baltimore City employees fired after OIG finds ethics violations

OIG: DPW Station cashier pleads guilty to theft charge

OIG: Bureau of Solid Waste $1.1 million over budget for overtime costs

Former employee granted access by security guard to enter City Building without clearance

OIG investigation reveals former DOT Director "humiliated and demeaned employees"

BPD botched boat removal, cost city $30,000, OIG report says

Read the OIG's year-in-review below.