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Accountabilityby Mark Reutter8:39 pmOct 5, 20210

EXCLUSIVE: Tomorrow’s meeting to evaluate Baltimore’s Inspector General violates city law

The announcement of a next day meeting contradicts the City Code, which requires seven days public notice

Above: Isabel Mercedes Cumming and James L. Shea. (Brew file photos)

The Scott administration gave public notice today that the Inspector General Advisory Board will hold a meeting tomorrow to privately discuss the job performance of Baltimore’s corruption watchdog, Isabel Mercedes Cumming.

Trouble is: the City Code says such a meeting – which could decide Cumming’s fate as IG – requires a seven-day advance public notice.

Notice of the meeting first popped up this morning on Mayor Brandon Scott’s Boards and Commissions’ website under the authority of City Solicitor James L. Shea.

Questioned about how Shea could call a meeting on such short notice, his chief of staff, Stephen Salsbury, replied to The Brew by email, asking, “Can you specify what Section 6-4(a)(1) you are referring to, and where it says that a 7-day notice period is required.”

Here it is:

article 1 sec 6-4 public meetings

While subsection (b) allows the 7-day requirement to be waived in the case of an “emergency meeting,” that provision was not invoked today by Shea.

The statute goes on to say that if a city board fails to give proper advanced written notice, “such meeting will be deemed to have no legal standing.

On-Air, then Off

As currently planned, tomorrow’s meeting will be broadcast live starting at 2 p.m. on CharmTV.

The first agenda item, however, calls for the meeting to be closed to the public.

Shea is expected to cite the section of the Maryland Open Meetings Act that allows a public body to close an open session to discuss “the appointment, employment, assignment, promotion, discipline, demotion, compensation, removal, resignation or performance evaluation of an appointee, employee or official over whom it has jurisdiction.”

After taking a vote to close the meeting, the Advisory Board will go off-air for a “discussion of the annual performance evaluation of the Inspector General,” according to the agenda.

Altogether, CharmTV coverage is scheduled to last until 2:30 p.m.

Mosby Connection

City law requires all city boards and commissions, including the IG Advisory Board, to meet at least once a year.

But the board was never assembled – and a job evaluation of Cumming was never sought – until after her office’s investigative report on Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

The report, which Mosby herself requested to refute a Baltimore Brew article about her extensive travels and incorporation of a travel and consulting business, infuriated the state’s attorney and her husband, newly elected City Council President Nick Mosby.

Marilyn and Nick Mosby coverage by The Brew

She demanded revisions to major sections of the report. When Cumming refused, the president of the Baltimore NAACP and others denounced Cumming as biased against the Mosbys and demanded “greater clarity and accountability” of her office by the advisory board.

Nick Mosby appointed two designees to the board, Scott appointed two, Comptroller Bill Henry appointed one, and Mosby and Scott jointly appointed two.

At a meeting to learn how her office operated in August, Shea and other members grilled Cumming for hours about her investigations, including whether she weighed “racial equity considerations” when deciding who to investigate.

“No,” Cumming replied, saying that investigations were based mostly on employee and “whistleblower” complaints of waste, fraud and financial abuse in city government.

The IG, who was appointed to a six-year term in January 2018, has objected to the makeup of the board.

She argues that allowing political appointees to evaluate the IG – with the power to hire and fire what should be an independent “people’s watchdog” – goes against established best practices, especially when board members or their colleagues may themselves be under scrutiny.

Below are the seven members of the board – and the officeholders who appointed them:

Members of the Inspector General Advisory Board.

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