Isabel Mercedes Cumming has been selected as Baltimore’s next Inspector General, a long-vacant position charged with pursuing complaints of waste and fraud in city government, multiple sources tell The Brew.
Mayor Catherine Pugh has been waiting until the start of next year to make the announcement, which comes after former IG, Robert Pearre, told The Brew that his probe of a top city official was stymied by political interference from Pugh’s predecessor.
The IG position has been unfilled since September 2016 when Pearre resigned, ostensibly for personal and family reasons. He now says he was forced out by Kimberly Morton, then deputy for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and now Pugh’s chief of staff.
A search for an IG was suspended last spring by the Pugh administration, then renewed this fall after Andre Davis became the new city solicitor.
(Davis replaced George Nilson, who told The Brew he had been fired by Rawlings-Blake in part because he refused to dismiss Pearre and halt his investigation of Jerome Mullen, the former head of the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology.)
Asked this morning about Cumming’s pending appointment, Davis said, “There has been no announcement of the identity of the next IG, and the Law Department is not commenting on any rumors.”
$3,000 in Restitution
Cumming is currently assistant inspector general of investigations for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), a 13,000-employee agency that operates the Washington Metro.
The Metro OIG, where she worked for the last six years, has come under the same kind of criticism as Baltimore’s OIG – namely, a lack of independence (in this case from the WMATA board) and failure to conduct aggressive investigations into major areas of fraud and corruption (such as falsified reports on the structural integrity of Metro stations and track). More here.
A recent example of Cumming’s handiwork was the prosecution of a 24-year-old who was collecting workers’ compensation from the U.S. Postal Service while training as a Metro bus driver. The man was ordered to pay $2,940.96 in restitution and a $1,000 fine following an investigation jointly conducted by the USPS and the Metro inspector general.
Cumming was quoted in a press release touting her role in the case:
“This office is committed to the taxpayers to fight fraud and refer for prosecution cases at any level to protect our tax dollars. We want to send a message that any fraud – regardless of the size – will be referred for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”
A lawyer and accountant, she has had years of experience in white-collar crimes, according to her LinkedIn page.
Between 2004 and 2011, she was chief of the economic crimes unit for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office.
In 2010, she became a controversial figure in St. Mary’s County when, as special prosecutor, she dropped a corruption case filed by the incumbent state’s attorney against a businessman who was running against him.
Between 2000 and 2004, she was an assistant state’s attorney for Baltimore City and, before that, an assistant prosecutor in the Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor.
She has a law degree and and MBA in accounting from the University of Baltimore.