If confirmed as the District's new inspector general, Charles J. Willoughby said, he will investigate the mayor and his cabinet members without any hesitation, and he vowed to "go wherever the problems exist" in D.C. government agencies.
At his confirmation hearing Monday before the D.C. Council Committee on Government Operations, Willoughby said he will not have a problem balancing his status as an appointee of Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) with his role as the city's chief investigator, who is responsible for probing complaints of alleged fraud and wrongdoing, including any improprieties committed by his boss.
"I have no hesitation in not talking or refusing to disclose information [to the mayor or other administration officials] that may jeopardize an investigation," Willoughby said. "I intend for the office to function as an independent entity. If we don't do that, the office is for naught."
Willoughby, 55, has been the assistant inspector general and counsel for the Federal Communications Commission for seven years. He said he will fulfill the office's statutory mandate to provide impartial, independent and objective investigations and audits of city government agencies.
"I can honestly say from my interviews for this position, I think the mayor fully understands he wants the office to function as it was statutorily mandated," Willoughby said.
Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), chairman of the committee, said he was impressed that Willoughby has lived in the District for 20 years and practiced law for 30 years.
"You will add fresh air to this situation," Orange said. "We've been trying for some time to find someone who meets the qualifications passed a couple of years ago."
Orange was at the forefront of the fight two years ago to change the qualifications for the inspector general's job and force the former inspector general, Charles C. Maddox, to step down. Although the council approved legislation requiring the inspector general to be a graduate of an accredited law school and a member of the D.C. Bar for seven years, it was unsuccessful in forcing Maddox to leave the position.
Maddox did not graduate from an accredited law school and had been a member of the D.C. Bar for less than one year, but the mayor refused to enforce the law. Maddox resigned a few months after the law was approved.
Austin A. Andersen, one of Maddox's top deputies, has served as the office's interim inspector general for 18 months.
Orange praised Andersen's leadership, saying he had done "an excellent job," and asked Willoughby if he intended to make any changes in the staff.
Willoughby said the office appears to be operating in an "extremely efficient manner," but he stopped short of saying he wouldn't make any changes.
"I don't want to make any commitments," Willoughby said. But he added: "I do not believe in reinventing the wheel. If something seems to be operating well, I don't want to disrupt it."
Willoughby has served as an assistant district attorney in New Orleans and an assistant United States attorney in Washington. He has also served as staff counsel to the House ethics committee.
His current job responsibilities with the FCC are similar to those of the District's inspector general, he said.
"Much like the District's Office of the Inspector General, the commission's office . . . is entrusted with the responsibility of preventing fraud, waste and abuse by performing its statutorily mandated duties in an independent and objective manner," Willoughby said.
During the hearing, Willoughby stressed his community service. He has been active with the 16th Street Heights Civic Association, the Ward 4 Redistricting Task Force and the District's Commission on Human Rights.
Willoughby is married and has two adult sons.