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Leggett Would Reorder Office, Expand Council

"The current model is the best option," he said.

Council Vice President Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville), a former head of Common Cause Maryland, said he thinks the inspector general should be kept in the legislative branch. "Most of the work the inspector general does involves looking at the executive branch," he said.

In some jurisdictions, the inspector general is part of the executive branch; in others, it reports to the legislative branch or to both branches. In Miami-Dade County in Florida, for example, the inspector general is selected by a committee made up of law enforcement officials, the chairman of the ethics commission, and the county prosecutor. The inspector general is approved by the county commissioners and operates independently.

In the District, the inspector general is nominated by the mayor and approved by the council, but the office submits its own budget to Congress. Many federal inspectors general are appointed by the president but also report to Congress.

Fred Palm, executive director of the Association of Inspectors General, said the offices operate most successfully when "people recognize they really do need an independent third party. When you think about oversight, the essential ingredient in doing good oversight is independence."

In Montgomery, the inspector general's office has at times been the target of officials' ire.

Former council member Michael Subin (D-At Large) at one point proposed eliminating the office. The county's first inspector general, Norman Butts, resigned after six contentious years marked by battles with the Duncan administration over access to documents and the scope of investigations.

Dagley, who is in the third year of his first term, has encountered similar resistance from some county agencies, such as the school system and the planning agency, which have questioned his authority.

Dagley told the commission that audits and investigations conducted by his staff of four "cut across the executive branch, council, and independent council-funded agencies, including Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery College, the Planning Board and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission."

He mentioned an ongoing investigation of a noncompetitive bid that involves both the executive branch and the council. He questioned whether such a probe could take place if his office were absorbed by the executive branch.

Judith Vandegriff, a charter commission member heading a subcommittee examining Leggett's inspector general proposal, said that she was inclined to postpone proposing changes this year to allow the panel to study the issue.

Leggett's proposals to change the composition of the County Council are part of what he said is a long-standing desire to expand the panel to take account of continued population growth and to allow lawmakers to pay more attention to their constituents.

His plan, which he had proposed several years ago while a council member, calls for adding two members who would represent new districts. Currently, five council members are elected by district, and four are elected at-large. Leggett also proposed changing the method for picking the council president, suggesting that a candidate run at-large in a president's race for a four-year term. Currently, the council president is picked by colleagues and serves a one-year term.

Andrews, who is in line to become council president next year, said he supports expanding district representation but thought the current practice for picking a council president worked well.

Nancy Soreng, chairman of the charter commission, said she wasn't sure the panel would take up those proposals quickly. The commission has few veterans on it and may need more time to examine the issues, she said. The panel will report its plans by mid-May.

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