BALTIMORE — Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott says he's forming a 90-day work group, tasked with reviewing the city's policies on travel for elected officials.
The move comes amid fallout from a recent Inspector General's report into the travel of Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
Inspector General Mercedes Isabel Cumming revealed Mosby traveled out-of-state 24 times throughout 2018 and 2019, causing her to be "physically absent" from the city for 85 days.
Of those, Cumming said the city or taxpayers paid full or partial costs for six of the trips.
The Inspector General believes Mosby was required to seek approval from the City's Board of Estimates for all trips costing more than $800, which in her case was at least 15 times.
Mosby's attorneys argue that only applies if she was requesting the city to pay or reimburse her for the trips.
City Solicitor nominee Jim Shea on Thursday issued a written opinion on the matter, which seemed to raise more questions than answers.
Shea said there is nothing in the City Charter or Codes saying approval is or isn't required before an elected official travels for a non-city funded trip.
"Neither the City Charter nor the City Code directly address the question posed," wrote Shea.
The Inspector General acknowledged Shea's memo, but still defended her interpretation, saying it was based off precedent.
"The Office of the Inspector General utilized the plain language found in the Administrative Manual, precedent set by other Elected Officials, and the interpretation of prior administrators to reach the conclusion in the report."
At question is a clause in the city Administrative Manual that reads in part;
"Travel that costs more than $800, as well as any travel outside of the continental United States regardless of source of funds or cost of trip, must be approved by the BOE. Additionally, BOE approval is required if the official’s absence exceeds five workdays or involves one or both weekend days."
On Monday in response to demands from Mosby's lawyers to revise her report, Cumming even provided documentation of past similar instances, when local officials first sought approval before traveling.
"The OIG found dozens of past instances of City elected officials, Baltimore Police Department employees and other City agency employees having submitted travel requests for BOE approval in accordance with the AM 240-3 when City funds were not actually being spent," Cumming wrote.
According to Scott, the work group will be made up of the City's Administrator, Solicitor, Director of Human Resources, and Director of Finance.
“Establishing this work group is about proactively working toward clarity around travel and notification policy for all public officials once and for all,” said Scott. “Our administrative manual is not regularly updated and could benefit from a comprehensive assessment. I have asked this group to convene and present recommendations that remove any ambiguity in these processes for greater transparency and accountability moving forward.”
Cumming has deferred her findings to the Maryland State Ethics Commission.
"It is not within the purview of the OIG to make a determination as to whether SA Mosby fully complied with the State Public Ethics Law, including the State’s disclosure requirements," Cumming wrote in her report's conclusion.