Campbell proposal for city IG gets mixed reviews at hearing

City Council President Andrea Campbell’s proposal to create a city office of Inspector General (IG) received a full hearing last Thursday at City Hall. 

Campbell’s proposed ordinance would give the IG a broad purview to investigate complaints of waste, mismanagement, and corruption across city government while promoting efficiency and holding city departments accountable to taxpayers.

“I wanted to be very clear that the ordinance is not meant to be reactionary,” Campbell said during the hearing.” I don’t want folks to get the sense that the city of Boston has some corrupt government where employees are going rogue. That is far from the case. We have a workforce that is dedicated.”

“The vision for this,” she added, “is how can we set up an office that works in partnership with the state Inspector General, who is here with us today, and does so at the local level, not from a reactive stance but from a proactive stance.”

Per Campbell’s proposal, the city IG would be appointed by an advisory board consisting of community members and city employees and would serve a five-year term. To protect the office from political reprisal, the IG could not be removed from office except for cause. Additionally, he or she would have a floor set for an annual budget, and would have the power to issue and enforce subpoenas. 

“This came about through looking at various appointment structures for other municipalities across the country,” said Campbell. “The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is also a great example of where we used a public process and a community process to appoint a committee that oversees those dollars. The independence really has to come from the appointment itself.”

State Inspector General Glenn Cuhna took the occasion to talk about his responsibilities and his thoughts on creating a companion IG in the state’s capital city.

“With regard to the city, we’ve been here serving the city of Boston,” he said, “and we are going to continue serving the city of Boston. The issues that are important here are having an office that’s independent, that provides confidentiality, and that is willing to collaborate and have relationships with taxpayers and agencies.”

Councillor Michael Flaherty, the chair of the Committee on Government Operations, asked Cuhna, “Would it be fair to say that you’re saying we already have that?”  Cunha replied, “Yes.”

Boston Finance Commission (FinCom) chief Sheriece Perry encouraged the committee to consider the roles the state Inspector General and the FinCom already play in holding state and city agencies accountable. 

“I believe that the role of the Commission serves the purpose that is intended by the ordinance that you are proposing at this time. I think that with the appropriate support of the Commission, there’s a lot more that we can achieve,” said Perry, who added, “Although we are appointed by the Governor’s office, the city of Boston pays the budget for the Boston Finance Commission, so it’s well within your budgetary powers to be able to increase that.”

Richard Ianella, who volunteers on the Boston FinCom, spoke about the work that the commission does: “In closing, let me say this: Very quietly, very effectively the Boston Finance Commission is doing its job. We are looking to change the lives of those in the city, and to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in Boston.” 

Campbell answered that having an independent IG’s office at the city level would yield many benefits. “My concern is around you all having to be invited in by departments to do trainings, to be as proactive as you would like,” she said.” This new position “would separate the invitation, responsibility or privilege from the administration to an independent office that is mandated and equipped with the power to act without invitation.”

“No one is really going into these departments and ensuring that the policies on paper are being implemented in the spirit in which they were written.” Campbell said. “None of these offices cover that specifically, which is why the scope which is defined in the ordinance is broader than the Finance Commission and the [state’s] IG’s office, but with the expectation that this office would work with all of you.”

Councillor Matt O’Malley offered his backing to Campbell, saying, “I support the efforts of what the council president is trying to do here, and I understand some concerns over the duplication of efforts, but I think that this in an opportunity to provide more avenues for the population of the city and beyond.”

This week, Campbell told the Reporter, “After our hearing, I am more convinced than before that we need this office in the city of Boston, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get something done by the end of the year.”