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Accountabilityby Mark Reutter5:36 pmDec 13, 20230

Chairman Jones calls his inspector general amendments “the right thing for good government”

His lengthy defense of amendments that critics say are designed to curb the powers of the IG was met with near universal condemnation at a public work session. A vote is scheduled on Monday.

Above: Julian Jones (D, 4th) defends his much-criticized amendments to the inspector general bills. (Mark Reutter)

Baltimore County Council Chairman Julian E. Jones Jr. spent the better part of two hours citing accountability, transparency and protecting the U.S. Constitution as his motivations for introducing amendments that experts say would strip Inspector General Kelly Madigan of effective ways to investigate waste, fraud and abuse in county government.

“I believe everybody in county government should have some level of accountability,” Jones said last night in an opening statement before a crowd nearly universally opposed to his proposals.

“I get it,” he declared. “It’s more sensational if, in some column, you make this about me and the inspector general. But as I’ve said repeatedly, I’m here to do the right thing for good government.”

The work session ended with Jones saying he will bring the amendments to a council vote on December 18.

The prospect was met by silence and lowered eyes from his colleagues, one of whom said that he had received nearly 1,000 pieces of correspondence from constituents.

“All of them, with the exception of one, asked that we not support these amendments,” said Izzy Patoka. “And I think other council offices have received the same amount of correspondence.”

Jones (center) has been elected as council chairman for three years in a row and four of the last six years. (Mark Reutter)

Jones  has been elected council chair for four of the last six years. Looking on as he spoke last night were Todd Crandell (R, 7th), Michael Ertel (D, 6th), David Marks (R, 5th), Wade Kach (R, 3rd), Izzy Patoka (D, 2nd) and Pat Young (D, 1st). (Mark Reutter)

Defending his Actions

Much of the meeting was devoted to Jones’ thoughts about how his amendments will support the IG’s watchdog mission while offering “a level of peace” for county employees and upholding the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures by government.

Jones has repeatedly tangled with Madigan over the last two years, denouncing her as “too aggressive” in a 2021 hearing and objecting to reports by her office that questioned his solicitation of campaign contributions using a county email address and making calls on behalf of a businessman donor seeking county repairs on a private alleyway.

Last year, Jones wrote that Madigan should come directly to him to rectify any complaint about his actions, while simultaneously lamenting that “in this ‘gotcha’ environment, a more benign response from your office was not to be expected or even considered.”

Out of 1,000 pieces of correspondence, “all of them, with the exception of one, asked that we not support these amendments”  – Councilman Izzy Patoka.

Last night, he said his amendment requiring Madigan to obtain a judge’s order before seeking individual records was simply a matter of “making sure that our brave police officers, firefighters and any other employee of Baltimore County is afforded the same rights to their privacy as criminals.”

Informed by Madigan that he was confusing administrative subpoenas with criminal search warrants, he did not respond.

Nor did he disclose the names of council members that, he told Fox45 News, had helped him rewrite Bills 83-23 and 84-23.

“I was not one of those members that helped you with the amendments,” Patoka said last night. “And I’m not sure of any council members.”

“Are you going to vote for the amendment?” Jones inquired, referring to an advisory council he wants to review the draft reports and be notified of potential investigations by the inspector general.

When Patoka said he would not, Jones said, “Then don’t worry about it.”

“Do you consider yourself a very nice inspector general?”  – Julian Jones questions Baltimore City IG Isabel Cumming.

When Isabel Mercedes Cumming, inspector general for Baltimore City, said 85% of inspector general offices nationwide don’t have an oversight board to reduce outside political influence, Jones had a question for her:

“Do you consider yourself a very nice inspector general?” he asked. “Or competent and do a great job?”

“I do my job,” Cumming said, noting that the advisory board established in the city after considerable political maneuvering “has never reviewed any of my investigations. Ever. My advisory board works with my budget; they work on my review. That’s it. They have no idea what investigations my office is doing. That is a pillar of independence.”

A not-atypical statement opposing Jones' amendments posted by the Baltimore County Young Democrats. (Instagram)

A statement opposing Jones’ amendments posted yesterday by the Baltimore County Young Democrats. (Instagram)

Unanswered Questions

Several speakers directly asked the seven-member council to confirm or deny a Brew report about Jones calling on his colleagues to meet “as a group” before the December 4 council meeting in apparent violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act.

There was no answers given by the members. Jones now says that no formal meeting took place, while Councilman Mike Ertel described the meeting to the Baltimore Sun as a “five second huddle.”

(None of the councilmen ever answered The Brew’s request for comment on their attendance at the requested meeting.)

Nearly a dozen residents joined Common Cause Maryland, Association of Inspectors General, League of Women Voters of Baltimore County, Baltimore County Young Democrats and County Executive Johnny Olszewski in speaking out against the amendments.

Retired county employee Whitney Dudley said the amendments would hobble the inspector general’s ability to “expose wrongdoing by upper-level management, directors, bureau chiefs, department heads, etc.” and protect workers like herself.

“The Office of the Inspector General has provided an avenue for the stewards of Baltimore County government to express concerns in an unbiased and safe environment.”

Towson resident Rose Kinder was equally direct, saying, “Mr. Jones, I have appreciated some of your work in our Baltimore County community. I don’t know what is behind your attempts to restrain the inspector general, but your effort has been sustained, egregious and damaging to your reputation.”

julian Jones requested a private meeting of the Council to go over his IG amendments prior to Monday's public meeting. BELOW: His amendments were conveyed to the council on his personal gmail account early Sunday morning.

Text of the email  message Julian Jones sent to council members on December 3, disclosing his IG amendments and requesting “all the members to meet” an hour before the council’s December 4 public meeting “to discuss the amendments as a group.”

Two Supporters

Two persons spoke in favor of the amendments.

Saying he was a victim of an unfair federal IG investigation while employed at the Department of Defense, David Riley said he found Jones’ idea to allow county employees to request reimbursement for any legal costs related to an IG investigation “very attractive.” Election records show that Riley made two contributions to Jones’ campaign committee totaling $150.

David Rose, newly elected president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4, said he was opposed to the government “getting into people’s personal lives” and thus supported the requirement that Madigan obtain a court order to subpoena documents.

“For the record, I have not spoken to the council chair. We’ve had no conversation over this at all,” Rose said.

“Absolutely,” Jones agreed.

Baltimore County Inspector General Kelly Madigan. (Mark Reutter)

Since its formation in 2020, the Office of Inspector General has been headed by Kelly Madigan with a staff of one, then two investigators. (Mark Reutter)

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