Barrett Vetoes Inspector General
Council, Mayor at odds over how independent new position should be.
Milwaukee may not get an Inspector General after all. Mayor Tom Barrett has vetoed the creation of the position.
In his veto message to the Common Council, Barrett states: “I share the sentiment of the Council that there is a benefit in having an Inspector General. However, if we move in this direction we need to do it right. That means the position needs to be free from political interference and needs to be empowered to investigate all aspects of city government including those under the jurisdiction of the City Clerk, absent political interference.”
The position, which would need to be funded in the next city budget, was first introduced by Alderman Robert Donovan in the wake of January’s revelations of significant problems at the city Health Department and failures with the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. Joining the south side alderman in supporting the new position were co-sponsors Mark Borkowski, Robert Bauman, Ashanti Hamilton, Cavalier Johnson, Chantia Lewis, Jose G. Perez, Khalif Rainey and Russell W. Stamper, II.
The position, designed to be a watchdog over the city that is answerable to the Common Council, would be housed within the council-elected City Clerk‘s office. Donovan, who expressed frustration that past referrals by the council for investigation have died, said his vision is for an independent position that can investigate concerns members of the council have. Donovan, who has often called for investigations on various issues, did not specify who has been asked to do investigations in the past; The independently elected city Comptroller can conduct audits, but the council can only request, not command investigations.
According to the legislation establishing the position, the Inspector General position would be “appointed in consultation with the President of the Common Council and under the direct supervision of the President of the Common Council, outside of the administration chain of command” and “would monitor and report on departmental administration, operations and services.”
Barrett opposes this framework. “Political issues and disagreements could easily determine what departments or individuals are investigated,” said the Mayor in his veto letter. He added that certain applicants, including those for liquor licenses and Community Development Block Grants, would not have “independent recourse” if their applications were rejected.
Comptroller Martin Matson cautioned against the council’s proposal to place the position with the City Clerk’s office prior to the council vote on September 25th. The comptroller said the structure could result in “politically motivated audits.”
The council will consider whether to override or uphold the veto at its regularly scheduled meeting on October 16th.
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