Inspector general’s work deserves praise

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

In 1997, the County Council created the Office of the Inspector General. Charged with rooting out legal, fiscal and ethical accountability issues in county government, OIG will indubitably cross swords with powerful bureaucrats and elected officials.

The fireworks following OIG’s latest two reports are evidence that the investigations are uncovering real problems in county government.

In January, Inspector General Thomas Dagley produced a report documenting planning process failures in the development of Clarksburg, and in February, he issued a report with findings critical of Montgomery County Public Schools’ plans for modernization of Seven Locks Elementary School.

The reports illustrate failures in bureaucratic decisionmaking, disregard for rules and procedures that are meant to ensure fiscal and legal accountability, and disdain for citizens groups that are ignored to the point that they become semi-professional activists just to get heard.

In their responses, both the planning board and school board complained that the OIG does not have the authority from the state to investigate them, and some elected officials even made ad hominem attacks on Mr. Dagley and his staff.

Mr. Dagley’s reports include findings that could lead to criminal investigations.

Our elected officials should not chastise him for doing a very difficult job, but rather thank him for his diligence and encourage him to continue his efforts.

The Montgomery County Taxpayers League supports the work of Mr. Dagley and his staff. They were forthright in the Clarksburg and Seven Locks reports, and their investigations uncovered not just problems in county bureaucracy, but, perhaps more importantly, the fact that many citizens have lost faith and confidence in county government.

Intelligent open government is critical to restoring that faith and confidence. County Council members must resolve that OIG will have their support and encouragement, and the statutory basis to continue the very challenging mission of promoting fiscal, legal and ethical accountability in county government.

French Caldwell, Bethesda

The writer is a board member of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League.