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(Published June 2, 2003)
The much-publicized "spat" between Mayor Anthony A. Williams and the D.C. City Council over Inspector General Charles Maddox's continued tenure is obscuring the real issue: government integrity.
This newspaper more than a year ago called for Maddox's removal from office over what appeared then - as now - to be highly political motives on the part of the mayor for keeping Maddox in place. Subsequent to that February 2002 editorial, written during an ongoing IG investigation of improper fundraising activities within the mayor's office, nothing has happened to redeem the credibility of the investigations conducted by the inspector general's office.
Maddox must go.
The District's inspector general must be beyond reproach. Congress created the position during the control board era to be an independent officer of the government, responsible for ferreting out waste, fraud and abuse in the D.C. government. A sitting IG - who is appointed by the mayor but confirmed by the city council - can be removed from office only by the mayor.
Unfortunately, Maddox's chumminess with Mayor Williams - who reportedly continues to hold regular, private meetings with the inspector general - long ago compromised the IG's independence and, with it, most of Maddox's investigations.
Maddox's own office now appears to be one of the biggest culprits when it comes to government waste, fraud and abuse. The secrecy that pervades Maddox's operations - especially when he routinely refuses to publicly disclose many important details of his investigations once they are completed - makes it impossible for taxpayers to judge whether their money is being well spent or simply piddled away on politically inspired witch hunts.
The sloppiness of the IG's recently concluded investigation of alleged irregularities at the Board of Elections and Ethics - which heavily fined the mayor's re-election campaign and kept the mayor's name off last year's Democratic primary ballot due to petition fraud - raises new, serious questions about whether Maddox is improperly spending millions of taxpayer dollars.
Maddox violated a time-honored practice of allowing the subjects of an investigation to respond to charges before the public release of a critical investigation report. In addition to blind-siding D.C. election officials, Maddox also failed to seek responses from three city council members who are impugned in his report. The three - Carol Schwartz and Jack Evans, who both have challenged the mayor in elections, and Vincent Orange, who has been leading the council's charge to remove Maddox - did not even receive a courtesy copy of the IG's report before a summary was released to the public.
According to a well-placed source with no direct stake in the matter, a member of Maddox's staff delivered advance copies of the IG's full report to The Washington Post and WAMU political commentator Jonetta Rose Barras - before the full report was put into the hands of the investigation's subjects. This makes it appear that Maddox relied on journalists' ethical duty to protect their sources as a way to involve them in his political skullduggery - or that he lacks control over his own staff.
Meanwhile, the mayor's steadfast support for Maddox's continued tenure is beginning to reflect upon the mayor's own integrity. Why - in a city with so many legal eagles who hold impeccable credentials and could competently continue the IG's currently ongoing investigations - does the mayor continue to fight so hard to retain a man whose integrity is constantly under attack?
Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator