Upper Marlboro, MD – The Prince George's County Council recently passed important legislation that will give Prince George's County citizens peace of mind that their government is being run to the highest of ethical standards.
"I want to thank the Prince George's County Council for their incredible work during this recent session," said Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III. "The cooperative efforts of the Prince George's County Council with my office, executive branch departments, community stakeholders and each council member's constituents have paid dividends with smart, aggressive, and progressive legislation that will improve the lives of our citizens. I want to congratulate the Prince George's County Council and look forward to working with them during the next Council session."
This legislation and the subsequent creation of the Office of Ethics and Accountability assures that this government and its employees will be held accountable to the highest ethical standards of conduct.
Led by an executive director, the Office of Ethics and Accountability will be the main entry point for tip information or evidence of illegal acts or unethical conduct by employees of the Prince George's County government. The goal and mission of the Office of Ethics and Accountability will be to ensure that the Prince George's County government operates at the highest level of ethical conduct and that there is a dedicated office to investigate those instances where deviation may have occurred.
Staff in the Office of Ethics and Accountability will include investigators who would compile relevant information (interview witnesses, and review documents) regarding any possible acts of unethical conduct or illegal acts. This information would be reviewed by the executive director who would determine if such acts represent criminal conduct, are covered by existing personnel law, are instances where policies and procedures should be changed, or if no violation of law or policy has occurred. For instances involving criminal conduct, a mechanism for distributing this information to the State's Attorney's Office will be created. The State's Attorney's Office would then proceed to file any possible criminal charges after their own investigation.
Additionally, the Office of Ethics and Accountability will eventually administer a tip line to allow employees of the County government to discreetly register any information they have regarding possible unethical acts committed by employees of the county government.
Funding for the Office has been allocated in the FY 2013 budget for the executive director position, administrative support staff and two investigators. The staff of the State's Attorney's Office has been increased in the FY 2013 budget to include an additional special prosecutor and administrative support staff to comply with this additional function. Funding for the tip line was also allocated and approved in the FY 2013 budget.
Additional key elements of the legislation include:
• The Executive Director:
Nominated by the county executive and confirmed by the county council. Removal of the executive director could only occur following a two-thirds vote of the county council after the reasons for such removal have been put in writing and a public hearing has been held.
A staggered term to begin in the second year of an administration and limited to 2 terms;
High standards of professional qualifications;
Would serve as the executive director of the Board of Ethics, have responsibility for the review of all disclosure forms and for conducting ethics training of county employees.
• Budget of the Office of Ethics and Accountability:
Funded as a separate budget item;
Any decrease in a prior year funding must be accompanied by a written explanation and justification for the decrease.
• Authority of the Office of Ethics and Accountability:
Conduct all necessary investigations;
Make recommendations on ways of improving policies and procedures within the government to ensure more ethical governmental operations;
The right to review any relevant county documents and to interview county employees in furtherance of an investigation.
• Whistleblower protection:
For employees or others who provide information to the Office as well as to those who cooperate with any pending investigation.
• Reporting requirements:
Within 60 days of the end of each fiscal year, an annual report must be issued that catalogs all completed investigations during the prior year. This report would be made available to the public and posted on the county website.