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Accountabilityby Mark Reutter11:31 amNov 9, 20210

Baltimore’s corruption watchdog elected to a top office in national organization

Isabel Mercedes Cumming is elected to unpaid position at the Association of Inspectors General to oversee independence and integrity issues

Above: Isabel Mercedes Cumming with AIG First Vice President Will Fletcher, IG for Chicago Public Schools, and AIG President Stephen Street in Atlanta last week. (Association of Inspectors General)

Under attack locally by Marilyn Mosby supporters, Baltimore’s inspector general, Isabel Mercedes Cumming, has been elected second vice president of the national organization of inspectors general.

“We’re looking forward to working with Isabel on issues of great concern to our organization,” Stephen B. Street Jr., president of the Association of Inspectors General and Louisiana’s Inspector General, said in a phone interview last night.

The AIG represents more than 2,000 state, federal and local inspectors  general in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere, charged with investigating and rooting out corruption and waste within government.

Starting in January, Baltimore’s watchdog will serve as the unpaid chair responsible for integrity, independence and ethics issues for the association.

Cumming is currently a member of the group’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee. Her office was praised by the association for establishing an internship program with Coppin State University.

Performance Review Politics

In Baltimore, Cumming has been locked in a standoff with the IG Advisory Board headed by City Solicitor James Shea.

Last month, Cumming waived her rights to confidentiality and asked the panel to conduct a review of her performance in public.

Shea then canceled the meeting, citing a subordinate’s opinion that a public review of Cumming would violate the Maryland Public Information Act and subject advisory members to possible criminal sanctions.

The situation remains frozen, with a statement by the board that it “will explore other ways to conduct its performance review.”

Long dormant, the advisory board was activated last spring following Cumming’s report on Marilyn Mosby’s out-of-town travels and incorporation of a travel and consulting company.

Allies of Mosby denounced the report, which Mosby had herself requested, as unfair and possibly racially motivated.

Several Black lawyers and leaders called on the Scott administration to fire Cumming, the city’s first female and Latina inspector general.

“The issues Cumming has encountered in Baltimore is just about exactly what any IG doing their job correctly will have”  – AIG President Stephen Street.

Two of the committee’s seven members – Council members Eric Costello and Sharon Green Middleton – are close political allies of Mosby’s husband, City Council President Nick Mosby.

Two other members – law professors Donald B. Tobin and Ronald Weich – were jointly picked by Mosby and Mayor Brandon Scott. (See list of members below.)

Baltimore County IG

Alluding to the controversy last night, Street said, “The issues Cumming has encountered in Baltimore is just about exactly what any IG doing their job correctly will have. You push on government, and you’ll get an equal and opposite reaction by some people in government who are none too happy about what you’re doing.”

He added, “It’s the nature of the beast,” noting that his organization had publicly objected to measures, since rescinded, by Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. to strip the county’s inspector general, Kelly Madigan, of independence.

Olszewski recently appointed a committee to advise him on possible changes to the county’s IG law.

In a statement requested today by The Brew, Cumming said she hopes to strengthen the inspector general model by making sure that local watchdog offices stay free of political interference.

“As inspector generals make greater inroads throughout the nation, I hope to continue to stress the importance of internal and external independence in the standards established for the IG community.”

Members of the Inspector General Advisory Board.

Members of Baltimore’s Inspector General Advisory Board.

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