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City Inspector General asks voters to grant independence

Posted at 5:48 PM, Nov 01, 2018

Robert Pearre believes it's the most important bubble on the ballot, and yet it's at the bottom on the very last page.

Question F could potentially impact the future work of the Baltimore City Inspector General, a role Pearre held for around three years until he said he was forced out because certain protections didn't exist.

“Basically, I was pressured to resign. Under the proposed independent structure, the decision to hire or to terminate an IG can't be made by any one individual,” said Pearre.

The ballot questions asks voters whether they're in favor of making the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) independent.

Currently, the OIG is under the purview of the Mayor’s Office. If the charter amendment is approved, a board made up of several elected officials and potentially some academics would do the hiring and the firing.

“Once that happens, the IG then will have the pleasure the freedom to operate, investigate whatever they see needs to be investigated, prioritize the cases and so on without having to worry about political influence,” Pearre said.

When asked if ever felt pressure investigating high-ranking officials, he said he was not overtly discouraged, but there was still friction.

Pearre left office in 2016. Inspector General Isabel Cumming assumed the role in January 2018.

Cumming and Mayor Catherine Pugh both support the measure.

“I have no problem with it,” Pugh said in a news conference on Wednesday. 

She added that she recognizes the need for scrutiny. And most recently, that scrutiny has been directed at a program the Mayor’s championed.

IG Cumming said she couldn't find evidence that WorkBaltimore, a month-long job fair, justified the means, which was a price tag of around $425,000.

“I don't think [Cumming]'s aware of all of the workshops and things that took place and it was not an one-day event. And I want to emphasize that. It was not a one-day event,” Pugh said.

IG Cumming said her office's 25-page report shows they evaluated the entire program.

Cumming added that the Mayor has specifically told her that she supports her as an independent unit, however, Cumming is still advocating that voters approve the charter amendment.

Pearre also said had independence been established sooner, he believes he and his predecessor would've departed on much different, and better terms.

Councilman Ryan Dorsey introduced the bill that would make the OIG independent from the mayor's office earlier this year. Click here to see the full legislation