Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Making the Inspector General a permanent office

Inspector General bill unlikely to be on May ballot

Making the Inspector General a permanent office

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A bill to make the office of Inspector General Amy Kurland a permanent position, rather than one that exists only if the mayor supports it, isn’t likely to become law soon.

The bill, sponsored by Councilman Jim Kenney, needs a hearing and a vote from Council’s Law and Government Committee before it can move forward. Councilman Bill Greenlee, who chairs that committee, said he doesn’t plan to hold a hearing on the bill by March 14.

If the committee does not hear the proposed ordinance by that date, it can’t go on the May 21 ballot. Voters must approve the proposal because it requires changing the city’s Home Rule Charter.

Greenlee says he sees no rush because the city already has an Inspector General. Council also has a full plate, he said, given concerns about the city’s new property assessment system and upcoming budget hearings.

“There are a whole lot of things going on,” Greenlee said. The bill could still be heard in time for the November election, he said.

Mayor Wilson Goode established the Office of Inspector General, or OIG, and each mayor can decide whether to keep it via executive order. Kenney wants to protect the office from the whims of individual mayors. The OIG investigates allegations of wrongdoing in Philadelphia’s executive branch or by companies that do business with the city. The Inspector General does not have oversight of Council itself.

Kurland, a former federal prosecutor, has used the office more aggressively than predecessors, leading investigations that led to 166 city workers losing their jobs and to 44 arrests or indictments.

She said that she supports Kenney’s bill because her office is the only city agency able to investigate city workers and contractors.

“I think it is extremely important for a big city in the United States to have an Inspector General,” she said. “Most cities have them.”

 

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The Philadelphia Inquirer's Chris Hepp, Tricia Nadolny, Julia Terruso, and Claudia Vargas take you inside Philadelphia's City Hall.

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