The role of the county’s inspector general would be strengthened under a proposed bill that was the subject of a County Council public hearing on Tuesday.
The inspector general is tasked with conducting audits of county departments and agencies to detect financial fraud, waste, or abuse of monies. The current inspector general, Megan Davey Limarzi, made the case for the proposed legislation Tuesday.
A final vote on the bill is scheduled for Nov. 15.
Limarzi said in an interview that the proposal is a “clean-up” bill that resulted from issues that she’s noticed while heading the inspector general’s office since her 2019 appointment by the council.
County lawmakers and officials have appeared to respect the role of Office of the Inspector General — which is not the case in other parts of the state.
In Baltimore County earlier this year, for example, an independent commission began investigating the county’s inspector general’s office after other county officials criticized how the office was being run, according to a WYPR news report.
Limarzi said she is always considering whether to request more resources for her office, which has a budget of around $2.5 million and 17 full-time equivalent positions.
Limarzi noted that her office currently has jurisdiction over Montgomery County Public Schools, which is established in state law, and suggested that establishing an independent inspector general for the school system could be considered
“It’s really been an issue of having to take time to gather data, and determine what our limitations are [and] what we would need,” Limarzi said. “So that I can go back to the policymakers and put forth an actual case study that says, ‘Here’s why we need the extra people or [why] we need access [and] resources.’”
The legislation calls for increasing the number of votes required to remove an inspector general from office from six to seven of the soon-to-be 11-member council, and lengthening from four to six months the amount of time allowed for the inspector general to submit a four-year budget after being appointed by the council.
It also includes provisions meant to strengthen the role of the inspector general and the office’s overall power, Limarzi said. One proposed change would require that “each officer, employee, and contractor” within a county government department, office and agency must provide the inspector general’s office with any documentation pertaining to budgets, operations or programs.
The proposed bill also amends the office’s subpoena power to ask for “the production of any information, document, report, record, account, or other material,” according to the bill.
Limarzi said the bill is broadly written in order to give her office more investigatory power.
The council passed legislation creating the inspector general’s office in 1997. The office has been involved in multiple high-profile matters in recent years, including investigating the integrity of a Montgomery County Public Schools contract with a company that outfitted its school buses.
In another case, the office found that a lack of separation of duties led to an embezzlement of more than $7 million by an employee of the former Montgomery County Office of Economic Development.