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Olszewski Sets Up New Ethics Panel in Baltimore County

Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. (D) said Tuesday he is forming an independent Commission on Ethics and Accountability, to evaluate the county’s current laws and policies governing public ethics, open government and the Office of Inspector General.

The county government already has an Ethics Commission that’s responsible for administering public ethics laws.

The new commission will study Baltimore County’s ethics laws and laws concerning the Office of Inspector General, Olszewski’s office said, and provide recommendations to ensure existing policies align with national best practices and identify any additional policies, functions, or practices to strengthen existing law.

“Over the last three years, we’ve made Baltimore County’s government more open, accessible, and transparent than ever before,” Olszewski said in a statement. “We also believe we should continue working to create a government that upholds the highest standards of ethics and accountability,” Olszewski said.

The new commission will be chaired by Joseph F. Murphy Jr., a retired Court of Appeals judge who also served as the chief judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. Other members are:

  • Joanne Antoine, executive director of Common Cause Maryland;
  • Brigadier General Janeen L. Birckhead, assistant adjutant general of the Maryland Army National Guard;
  • Kathleen Cox, former Baltimore County Circuit Court administrative judge;
  • Thomas X. Glancy, member at Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz and president-elect of the Board of Directors for ACLU of Maryland’s Public Justice Center;
  • William E. Johnson Jr., former inspector general for the Maryland Department of Human Resources;
  • Jon Laria, managing partner of Ballard Spahr; and
  • Cindy Leppert, chair of Baltimore County’s Ethics Commission.

Olszewski created an Office of Inspector General for the county in 2019 and hired Kelly Madigan, a former state prosecutor, to run it. The inspector general’s office is now a three-person shop.

But Madigan was criticized by members of the Baltimore County Council earlier this year for some of her tactics, and Olszewski floated legislation that would have established an oversight board to monitor the IG’s office and limit some of its duties. He later pulled back from that effort after being criticized by a national organization for government watchdogs.

To ensure that the new accountability commission can complete its work independently, the county will issue a request for proposals for an outside vendor to provide administrative and technical support for the panel. The commission is tasked with developing an interim report with its recommendations to the county executive and the county council by July 1, and will issue a final report by Nov. 1, 2022.

All commission meetings will be open to the public, though sessions are expected to be held virtually, at least initially.

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Editor’s note: This article was updated to include the name of a commission member who was announced after the story was published.


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Olszewski Sets Up New Ethics Panel in Baltimore County