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by Mark Reutter10:02 amJun 22, 20210

Inspector General oversight board to meet next month

The panel will review the performance of the office and its chief, Isabel Mercedes Cumming, who has come under attack by allies of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby

Above: Baltimore Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming. (File photo)

A high-stakes meeting, which could help determine the future of Baltimore’s in-house corruption watchdog, was announced today by City Solicitor Jim Shea.

The July 13 organizational meeting will begin the process of reviewing, and potentially revising, the Office of the Inspector General and assess the performance of its chief, Isabel Mercedes Cumming, who has come under attack from allies of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

Cumming said she welcomes the review, required under a 2018  charter amendment when authority for her office shifted from the mayor to an oversight committee consisting of appointees of the city’s three top elected officials.

The advisory committee never formally met during the Pugh administration, and the Covid pandemic scuttled potential meetings in 2020, according to city officials.

The absence of an annual review of the OIG – tasked with investigating complaints of waste, fraud and corruption – became a political football after Cumming issued a critical report on the out-of-state travel, gifts and side businesses of Mosby.

A group of activists, led by the president of the local NAACP, demanded that the oversight board meet and review Cumming’s performance.

The group expressed grave concerns that the OIG was unfairly targeting Black elected officials and some Black-owned vendors. Several members called on Cumming to resign or be forced out. (Her current six-year term ends in late 2023.)

Cumming rejected the complaints, saying most of her investigations have involved non-Black officials and contractors, whose discipline was meted out by the administration, not her office.

A private meeting between Kobi Little, president of the local NAACP, Cumming and others did not resolve his concerns, Little announced to the media.

Preliminary Showdown

Since then, two members of the City Council – Eric Costello and Sharon Green Middleton – have questioned the OIG’s operations.

At a June 3 budget hearing, Costello chided Cumming for not limiting her opening remarks to a designated eight minutes and questioned her hefty pay raise in 2020.

Cumming said the raise was the result of being out of alignment with her peers in city government. She told the Council that her office had identified $7.1 million in waste during the first 11 months of fiscal 2021.

Costello and Middleton were appointed to the oversight board by City Council President Nick Mosby, who passed over the sponsor of the charter amendment, Councilman Ryan Dorsey.

Mosby is married to State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. He has declared in a fundraising letter that his wife is blameless and the victim of a smear campaign.

Under the charter amendment, Mosby gets to pick two members of the oversight board. Mayor Brandon Scott and Comptroller Bill Henry each select one member.

The deans of the University of Maryland and University of Baltimore law schools are jointly appointed by the mayor and Council president.

Here are the seven members:

Jim Shea, city solicitor and board chair.

Michael Huber, Scott’s chief of staff (mayor’s designee).

Sharon Middleton, Council vice president (Council president’s designee).

Eric T. Costello, 11th District councilman (Council president’s designee).

Erika McClammy, deputy comptroller (comptroller’s designee).

Donald B. Tobin, dean of UM Francis King Carey School of Law.

Ronald Weich, dean of University of Baltimore School of Law.

The board’s organizational meeting will be held virtually on July 13 at 11 a.m.  It will be open to public viewing, the mayor’s office said today.

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