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Accountabilityby Mark Reutter9:09 pmDec 18, 20230

Julian Jones withdraws amendments that would weaken the county inspector general

The Baltimore County Council unanimously passes two bills to solidify the powers of the inspector general after Jones backs off

Above: Council Chair Julian Jones tweets a statement tonight proclaiming that he has “always been supportive” of the inspector general. (@julianejonesjr)

Tonight Baltimore County Council Chair Julian E. Jones Jr. surrendered, withdrawing amendments that would undercut the powers of County Inspector General Kelly Madigan.

But not before he tried to rewrite the history of the last two weeks.

Declaring that “from the very beginning, I have always been supportive of the Office of Inspector General,” Jones announced in a social media post that “I have decided to move forward with the legislation as proposed without any amendments.”

Minutes later, he withdrew his amendments at the council meeting, paving the way for the body to unanimously ratify Bills 83-23 and 84-23.

Designed by a blue ribbon commission to protect the inspector general’s office from political interference and retaliatory budget cuts, the bills will now go to County Executive Johnny Olszewski, who said he would sign them.

Key provisions, amending the county charter, will then be presented to voters for approval next November.

On December 4, the same legislation was set for final passage when The Brew reported that Jones had emailed his colleagues a series of last-minute alterations that he wanted to discuss privately with them before the public meeting.

Taken together, the changes would reduce Madigan’s powers to investigate waste and abuse in county government and subject her investigations to an advisory board.

Proclaiming Victimhood

Complaining that he was the target of “fake news,” “disinformation” and “leaked amendments,” Jones postponed the vote and scheduled a work session where the amendments would be publicly aired.

But by the time the December 12 work session took place, Jones had softened his amendments, for example, substituting academics and attorneys in place of county officials on his proposed advisory board.

At first, Jones insisted that he was only voicing the concerns of Council colleagues, none of whom he would name. Then he said county employees and other stakeholders had come to him, deeply worried about too much power being invested in Madigan and her two assistants.

At the hearing, only one resident, the president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police and no county employees spoke in favor of the amendments.

Madigan opposed the changes, saying they undercut a long process of consensus building and deliberations, while Baltimore’s IG, Isabel Mercedes Cumming, called the requirement that the office submit reports to the advisory board before publication “shocking” and “unheard of.”

In his written statement tonight on X, Jones said that, by pushing the amendments, “I wanted to ensure their [employee and stakeholders] concerns were aired in a public process.”

Although he was withdrawing the amendments, “I continue to share their concerns about privacy, due process and government checks and balances,” adding, “I feel very strongly about those principals [sic].”

Tangles with Madigan

Established in December 2019 by Olszewski to fulfill a campaign promise, the IG office has been repeatedly denounced by Jones.

In 2021, Jones and Councilwoman Cathy Bevins called Madigan “too aggressive” for investigating a county employee who was later convicted of stealing $110,000 from Bevins’ campaign account.

Last year, an OIG report directly questioned Jones’ use of a county email address to solicit campaign contributions. Another investigation revealed calls Jones made to county employees on behalf of a businessman seeking public repairs on a private alley.

The amendments Jones withdrew tonight were opposed by hundreds of citizens, who wrote or phoned in their opposition to the council, as well as a laundry list of good-government groups, such as the Association of Inspectors General, Common Cause Maryland, League of Women Voters and the Baltimore County Young Democrats.

Without mentioning any of these groups, the 4th District councilman, representing Randallstown and Owings Mills, concluded his statement by saying:

“I want to thank everyone who participated in the process, starting with my council colleagues, members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Ethics and Accountability, the inspector general for a spirited debate, the county executive for creating the Office of Inspector General, and especially the citizens and employees of Baltoimore County who weighed in on this important debate.”

Brew’s Special Coverage

Exclusive: Julian Jones plans to propose amendments tonight to strip away the power of Baltimore County’s inspector general (12/4/23)

Following a midnight drop of amendments to hobble Baltimore County’s inspector general, Julian Jones sought a private meeting about them (12/6/23)

Text of Julian Jones’ Inspector General amendments (12/6/23)

National watchdog group calls on Baltimore County Council to reject Jones’ amendments (12/11/23)

Julian Jones changes the amendments he tried to get the Baltimore County Council to pass last week (12/11/23)

Baltimore County Council: Fess up before your silence looks like a cover-up (12/12/23)

Chairman Jones calls his inspector general amendments “the right thing for good government” (12/13/23)

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