Council Blocks Plan to Change How Inspector Generals Get Picked
The District's mediocre inspector general is headed for the door later this month when his term expires, which in another city would mean it'd be a time for a national search to replace him. Thanks to District law, though, Vince Gray's administration will only be able to pick someone who already works in the D.C. area. Attempts to change that today didn't exactly thrill the D.C. Council.
Back in 2003, the Council, unhappy with then-IG Charles Maddox, wanted to give him the boot. Maddox claims councilmembers wanted him gone because he was pursuing a lack of campaign oversight from the Office of Campaign Finance; ouster ringleader Vincent Orange claims Maddox was getting out of hand with his investigations.
Whoever's version you believe, the Council passed legislation requiring that the inspector general be a registered lawyer or accountant in the District for seven years before taking office. Meeting neither of those qualifications and not having a time machine, Maddox resigned.
But now, like the attorney general election pushed for and then delayed by the Council, a bill passed to bug a city official is having unexpected consequences. While outgoing inspector general Charles Willoughby meets the requirements, the law also means the District can't pluck an inspector general from somewhere else, like it did in the search to fill the top spot at the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.
Backed by both Gray and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, government operations committee chairman Kenyan McDuffie introduced emergency legislation today to ditch the seven years requirement. Facing opposition, though, McDuffie ended up withdrawing the bill.
Some councilmembers, including Orange and Ward 1's Jim Graham, wanted to know whether they could avoid making an appointment until another mayoral administration starts, possibly by extending Willoughby's term. Gray administration statements suggest Willoughby wants nothing more to do with his office. Willoughby didn't respond to a request for comment.
Democratic mayoral candidate and Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, who could be doing some inspector general-appointing of her own if Willoughby stays on, opposed McDuffie's bill.
"To say we should go from having very stringent qualifications to having very minimal qualifications for such a position is also not the right way," Bowser said.
The idea of refusing a Gray nominee because Gray will be out of office soon, though, didn't please independent David Catania, who's also running for mayor and accused his colleagues of backing a "legislative coup" against the lame duck.
"Pick your friend as your oversight, and what kind of oversight do you think you can expect?" Catania said. "Not much."
Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro calls the idea of holding off on mayoral nominees until Gray's out of office "absurd."
“Mr. Catania is absolutely right," Ribeiro says. "I think that’s the first time I’ve ever said that."
Photo by Darrow Montgomery