“I think the natural mode of government is to be closed unless we make it be open, and when things are closed, that is when problems happen,” said Oslik, a member of Progressive Cheverly, a community group.
The panel — which heard from activists, ethics experts, internal government watchdogs and others from across the region — learned of a number of weaknesses in the Prince George’s government:
l The county lacks a system for regular and timely audits of all county agencies.
l There is little to no regular ethics training for county employees.
The county’s ethics commission did not meet in 2010, even though it is required by county law to meet five times a year.
l The county’s handling of workplace complaints such as sexual harassment is inconsistent.
l There is no formal punishment for an employee’s failure to file a financial disclosure report.
l The office that collects county financial disclosure forms and lobbyist registration is staffed part time, does not have the manpower to put the information online and lacks the authority to initiate an investigation or to subpoena records.
l The 16-person office of audits and investigations, headed by David Van Dyke, serves at the pleasure of the County Council, which task force members have said could have a chilling effect on audits of the council or of people with friends on the council.
Ivey said the lack of protocols was confusing and frustrating for government supervisors. Clear-cut criminal allegations could be referred to the U.S. attorney or the state’s public corruption prosecutor, but other concerns often fell into a gray area for which managers had little guidance, he said.
“Sexual harassment, misuse of credit cards, misuse of a county vehicle — where should we go with those issues?” said Ivey. During his tenure, his office, like many state’s attorney’s offices in Maryland, did not prosecute many public corruption cases.
And when it came to training, Ivey said, what was provided was often superficial and irrelevant to his employees. “They viewed it as a trip to the dentist,” he said.
The task force, which does not expect to issue a report until later this spring, is scheduled to meet from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the Boulevard at Capital Centre, Centreplex Office Building, Executive Dining Room, 821 Capital Centre Blvd. in Largo.