- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

Every now and again, D.C. lawmakers do something so underhanded that it warrants considerable attention. One such occurrence came March 4, when the D.C. Council began considering legislation that would force Inspector General Charles Maddox out of office and subvert congressional intent, among other things.
In 1995, Congress passed and President Clinton signed legislation that substantially strengthened the D.C. Office of the Inspector General (IG). The legislation, the D.C. Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Act, also created the control board. The chief intent of the federal legislation enabling the IG then, as now, was to root out corruption and mismanagement, and help restore integrity to D.C. government. We commend Mr. Maddox and his immediate predecessor, E. Barrett Prettyman, for carrying out their duties.
Unfortunately, too many lawmakers then and now mistakenly believe that the laws which reinvented the IG were aimed at getting Marion Barry. They were wrong. Part of the evidence rests in the fact that the D.C. Council itself has made strengthening the IG a priority, including authorization for investigators to carry firearms and authorization for the IG to conduct investigations without mayoral authority.
For more than a year, however, since the council no longer is under the purview of the control board, lawmakers have been trying to undermine the independence of the IG and the authority of the mayor. With Council member Vincent Orange, a Democrat, leading the way, the legislature has been essentially conducting a smear campaign. First, it challenged the mayor, who appointed Mr. Maddox in 1999 to a six-year term. Mr. Orange contended that Mr. Maddox's tenure should have expired in January 2002, when Mr. Prettyman's term would have expired. When that didn't work, Mr. Orange justifiably questioned the resume of Mr. Maddox, and whether he graduated from an accredited law school. But wrongfully, following gossip, he questioned the residency status of Mr. Maddox, who shares a home with his wife in Prince George's County. The council also has voted no confidence in Mr. Maddox.
Last week, the council went too far. The legislation approved last week unjustifiably mandates job requirements that would be impossible for Mr. Maddox to meet by the June 1 deadline. The legislation says that the next IG must have: been a member of the D.C. Bar for at least seven years; practiced law for seven years; practiced as a CPA for seven years; been a manager for seven years the unreasonable stipulations go on and on.
Congress was very clear in its intentions regarding the IG, and with good reason. The political shenanigans on the council and the rampant mismanagement in practically every agency led to the city's fiscal downfall. That is why the IG has, and must continue to have, budgetary independence and investigative independence. That's also why only the mayor has the authority to fire the IG and then, only for cause. Job requirements also fall under the purview of the mayor, not the council.
The District has had at least four IGs since the mid-1990s, including two whisked away by the control board. Mayor Williams will be forced to appoint a fifth if Mr. Orange and his colleagues have their way. The mandates they have proposed are simply out of the question. The unanimous vote on the legislation by the council means a mayoral veto doesn't have a chance. However, the mayor should veto it anyway.
Council member Jack Evans told us yesterday that it would be interesting to see how Congress handles the ridiculous IG legislation, which subverts congressional intent. Indeed, it will be.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide