Complaints to Inspector General Up 92% in FY20

By Adam Pagnucco.

MoCo Inspector General (IG) Megan Davey Limarzi has released her office’s annual report for Fiscal Year 2020 and it’s a doozy. The prior year was a very busy one for her and her staff!

The headline from her report is an obvious one – the phenomenal rise in complaints in FY20, the first full year of the new administration. The IG wrote, “We received 165 complaints in FY2020. This represents a 92% increase from FY2019.” The IG noted that her office’s authority was extended to the Housing Opportunities Commission and Montgomery College in October 2019 but she does not credit that for the rise in complaints. Instead, she said, “We attribute the increase in complaints to expanded outreach efforts and the perceived effectiveness of our reviews and investigations.”

This chart in the IG’s report shows skyrocketing complaints in the most recent fiscal year.

The report summarizes numerous IG reports, including some that have already attracted press coverage: the overtime “scam” in the fire department, the report on former Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine’s ethics violations and the report about MCPS’s bus camera contract.

Two additional reports stand out. The first concerns the county’s Office of Human Resources (OHR). The IG wrote:

We initiated a review based on numerous complaints alleging improper practices within the Office of Human Resources (OHR), including internal hiring processes, assignment of employee salaries and use of contractors.

We found that OHR did not follow normal competitive procurement processes when they awarded four contracts to one individual in an apparent attempt at splitting purchases to avoid contracting thresholds. In total, OHR made $184,900 in payments to the individual or a company they controlled. To facilitate some of the payments, OHR inappropriately used the “exempt” commodity code associated with collective bargaining, falsely indicating that County procurement requirements did not apply.

The second concerns the Department of Health and Human Services. The IG wrote:

The OIG conducted an investigation based on a complaint alleging a Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) manager misused Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC) grant funds resulting in a referral to the State’s Attorney’s Office. Through our investigation, we found evidence that the County DHHS manager engaged in a clear pattern of mismanagement and violations of County procurement regulations regarding the management of ROSC funds.

Was anyone disciplined for these violations?

The IG’s office, part of the legacy of former Council Member and former County Executive Ike Leggett, is one of the most valuable offices in MoCo government. With ten thousand people working for the county, there is bound to be some mischief going on and taxpayers deserve to know about it. That said, since the office has been around for more than 20 years and is therefore known to many county employees, it’s an open question as to whether expanded outreach alone is responsible for the astounding eruption in complaints last year. The county council should ask the executive branch why complaints to the IG have exploded under its watch.