- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2003

For all intents and any purposes, the D.C. Council no longer considers Charles Maddox to be the District’s inspector general. Lawmakers voted no confidence in him more than a year ago, and passed legislation that seemingly writes him out of his job. While we have encouraged Mr. Maddox to step down, nonetheless, the mayor stands on legal and principled ground when he said the inspector general can be dismissed only for cause and only by the mayor.

The standoff between the council and the mayor could prove damaging. First, any audit or investigation undertaken by the IG since the council began criticizing Mr. Maddox a couple of years back might now be construed as biased or retaliatory. That’s not good for a city government known for waste and corruption. Second, the legislation passed earlier this year deliberately imposed impossible job qualifications — such as being a licensed member of the D.C. Bar for at least seven years and a licensed CPA for at least seven years — upon Mr. Maddox. Third, and most important of all, if the legislative branch succeeds in usurping such legally vital executive functions as hiring and firing, then the city’s top watchdog agency will essentially conduct any future business amid an atmosphere of heavy political influence. Any city official — elected or not — could run interference or leak information for fear of losing his job.

The mayor and the council must not let that happen. City administrator John Koskinen fully expects Mr. Maddox to be at his desk tomorrow morning, despite today’s deadline to vacate. To the council, which expects Mr. Maddox to resign, that probably will be viewed as a act of sheer defiance. But, as Mr. Koskinen told The Washington Post, “if the council can redefine the inspector general out of his job, then the council can redefine anybody out of a job. The statute says the inspector general can only be moved for cause by the mayor.”

At this juncture, an important question that remains is: What happens next? Indeed, even if Mr. Maddox were to step down, the issue of who holds what authority under the District’s home rule charter remains unanswered.

We expect the Office of the Inspector General to continue to conduct its necessary business. And we’re confident that, if the mayor must, he could find a qualified and suitable replacement — after all, Washington has no shortage of lawyers and accountants. However, if the mayor and the council end up in court in search of a declaratory judgment, so be it.

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