Accountability, Compliance, and Integrity Advisory Board Update
I attended the first public meeting of the Accountability, Compliance, and Integrity Advisory Board meeting today, and although I arrived late, I did get the opportunity to hear most of the discussion from the group. Some brief thoughts for those who are curious about what came out of it:
- I was disappointed, but not surprised, that only about 20 residents showed up to participate. The room could have accommodated 150 people or more, and given that it was on a weekend when most people do not work, it was a great chance for people to dialogue directly with the board members.
- Fortunately, several members of the media were there to report about the meeting, and hopefully their news will be read by many more who share my concerns about ethics in county government.
- The Advisory Board spent some time debating how to set the meeting schedule to accommodate maximum participation by the public while squeezing the time into their already jam-packed schedules. This could be interpreted in one of two ways: the board is really committed to helping the county by making this work a priority despite their other obligations, or they simply do not have the time it will really take to provide comprehensive, constructive feedback to move the county forward. I hope it’s more the former than the latter, but I’ll have to wait and see.
- Many of the residents who did attend are people I had heard of, or recognized, from their record of advocacy in the county. Fortunately, the last half of the meeting was an opportunity for many of these activists to speak directly to the Advisory Board about their suggestions for the work that needed to be done. You can read some of that feedback on my Twitter account.
- I think one of the important, but probably overlooked suggestions, was to provide employees the opportunity to report corruption. Being a government employee myself, I can assure you that there are those who are well aware of corruption that is going on, and are unhappy about carrying around the tarnished image of their county with them.
- A lot of concerns centered upon making Prince George’s County a more open government, and that would be a huge step in the right direction if it can be achieved. This will require a major organizational culture change, and extreme diligence on the part of many people to make it happen.
- The one thing I was most surprised about is the limited discussion about accountability of our elected officials. This is certainly one of the most pressing ethical issues facing the county, and the advisory board meeting was a perfect opportunity for it to be addressed because no county council members were present to object!
The Advisory Board committed to try and get their report back to the County Executive by May 2011, when it could be considered as part of the budget presented to County Council (presumably because creating an Office of the Inspector General will require money). Hopefully, County Council will not only consider it as a part of the budget, but also embrace ethics as an essential part of their duty as public servants.