Montgomery inspector general to leave position by end of year
Dagley: Our work has not been fully embraced by all county officials'
Saying county government officials have not "fully embraced" his watchdog role, Montgomery County Inspector General Thomas Dagley says he will leave his post at year's end.
Dagley, the county's inspector general for the past five years, has had a tense relationship with County Executive Isiah Leggett's (D) office that has been played out at times in public and in the media.
Dagley said his decision to leave will allow the next council, which will be sworn in in December, to select a new inspector general.
Dagley told a council committee earlier this year about "interferences" by Leggett's office into his investigations, a claim that Leggett's office has denied.
The most recent example of tension came in July, when Dagley traded memos with Chief Administrative Officer Timothy Firestine over whether Leggett's office had missed a deadline to provide information to the inspector general.
Those memos from the first week in July have to do with one of Dagley's more publicized investigations into the county's tuition assistance program. Dagley revealed that county employees primarily police officers had been using county funds to purchase discounted guns.
And Dagley said Monday that acting County Attorney Marc Hansen used the names of individuals in a September 2009 confidential inspector general memorandum to the county government's chief information officer as part of an executive branch investigation.
"It was inappropriate for the county attorney to use the name of any individual in this confidential memorandum, because it risked misuse of the information by anyone not participating in the inspector general's work," Dagley said.
The incident harmed the confidentiality and independence of his office, Dagley said.
County spokesman Patrick K. Lacefield said the executive branch used the names as part of its own, simultaneous investigation into the tuition assistance program that Dagley also was investigating.
"What's wrong with that?" Lacefield asked.
"Quite frankly, we had the right of way in this road," Hansen said. "It was our investigation and we had the obligation to see if we could uncover anything that needed to be fixed at the executive's end of the field."
The county attorney is the lawyer for county government and also represents the inspector general, whose office is designed to be independent from county government.
The county's Office of the Inspector General was created in 1997 to detect and prevent fraud, waste and abuse in county government. The office's chief responsibilities are to review efficiency and effectiveness of government and increase accountability.
Dagley says his work has affected more than $40 million in county funding decisions.
While still a member of the County Council, Leggett authored the legislation creating the inspector general's office. Dagley's predecessor, Norman D. Butts, even calls the position "Ike's baby."
"From day one we've been nothing but supportive of the office of the inspector general," Lacefield said. "That's why we're mystified by what he's talking about and to date still haven't received any specifics."
However, experts and previous leadership in county government say the relationship between the inspector general and those he is investigating often can become tense.
"Some things never change," Butts said of Dagley's current situation. "County government was always a little problematic when I got to the level of chief administrative officer and director of finance."
Butts, now the director of finance for the town of Leesburg, Va., served as the county's inspector general from 1998 to 2004.
"There's always going to be that tension," he said. "It shouldn't be there but I think it probably always will. Nobody likes to be audited. Nobody likes to be investigated." But, he has difficulty believing that Leggett is behind any of Dagley's complaints, Butts said.
Fred Palm, executive director of the Association of Inspectors General, a national organization with 600 members, said Montgomery County's situation is not unique. "At a certain level, yes, it can be contentious," Palm said. "Or, it can be a professional relationship."
Dagley has offered few specifics about the interference into his investigations. Trachtenberg, who chairs the council's audit committee where Dagley first revealed his frustrations, said several public meetings have been canceled because of scheduling where she had hoped Dagley would elaborate.
She said she expects a meeting to take place in September or October.
Last year, Trachtenberg requested that the county's Ethics Commission investigate Dagley's request for a salary increase for his deputy inspector general. That matter has not yet been resolved.
It is one of several issues that Dagley says he hopes to resolve before he steps down. He also wants to complete reviews already under way.