Following the requirements of a voter approved charter amendment aimed at eliminating potential conflicts of interest, the Baltimore Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has announced that a new Advisory Board has been convened to review its work.
As a result of Question I, favored in November by 86% of city voters, the board now includes nine city residents who are not elected officials, City employees, candidates for office, or lobbyists.
The board previously has been composed of elected officials or their designees, the city solicitor and the deans of two law schools.
For Baltimore’s watchdog for government waste, fraud and abuse, the new configuration is a critical reform, the OIG said in a news release.
The change makes the Board “independent of possible conflicts of interest that may arise among those who are subject to the IG’s investigative jurisdiction,” the statement continued.
The issue of conflicts of interest on the board arose – and became a political flashpoint – in 2021 after Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming produced a report critical of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, wife of City Council President Nick Mosby.
At a subsequent Council budget hearing and an advisory oversight meeting, Nick Mosby’s designees on the board, along with City Solicitor Jim Shea, had been critical of Cumming, questioning her job performance and budget requests.
The charter amendment, supported by Cumming, was the result of a resolution that City Councilwoman Odette Ramos pushed through the council last year.
“The public should never wonder if a report is biased or is fully accurate because the subject of an investigation sits on or is influenced by a member of this board,” Cumming said at a hearing of the previous board, calling its composition “a flaw.”
“No citizen of Baltimore should be concerned whether a future inspector general has the fortitude to stand up to, or investigate, their own board,” she added.
Under the new configuration, the deans of the University of Baltimore Law School and the University of Maryland law school are still members of the 11-member Independent Advisory Board.
But the others serving on this first-ever city body were chosen through a unique process.
• From the 56 citizens who applied to serve on the Board, a group of 14 were nominated by City Council members from their respective districts.
• From this group, seven Board members were chosen at random as the final selection by the Chairman of the Board of Ethics.
• The other two members are city residents chosen from professional groups: Certified Public Accountants and Certified Fraud Examiners.
The new Board Members’ first meeting will include a training session scheduled for April 18 at 5:00 P.M. The session will be open to the public virtually.
Advisory Board Members
The new members are:
Gary Williams, Michael Dowd, Nicole Brehon, Ralph Salvador-Brisueno, Brittany Banks, Gayle Guilford, Lauren DiMartino, James Godey (CPA), Raymond White (CFE), Dean Ronald Weich and Dean Renée McDonald Hutchins.