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Another fine mess
(Published February 11, 2002)

Every time Congress makes an unwelcome intrusion into the District of Columbia’s municipal affairs, the citizenry is reminded self-righteously by our federal overlords that they are merely performing their constitutional duty by asserting ultimate jurisdiction over the nation’s capital city.

It’s a convenient argument for justifying anything Congress chooses to impose upon D.C. taxpayers, who have no voting representation in the federal legislature and, therefore, no real recourse.

Unfortunately, this lack of congressional representation also means Congress often doesn’t pay attention when its intervention is truly needed to resolve the local problems that its actions helped to create.

Congress created the independent Office of the Inspector General for the District of Columbia, currently headed by the embattled Charles Maddox.

Maddox, who is the District’s chief investigator of alleged wrongdoing by D.C. government employees, is himself skirting the law that requires his "regular" and "primary" residence be within Washington, D.C. The IG has testified before the city council that he bunks with his adult son in the District while maintaining a home in Prince George’s County that is inhabited full time by his wife. His Maryland home, but not his purported D.C. residence, is taxed as being owner-occupied.

Among his duties, Maddox investigates alleged noncompliance with the District’s residency law by other top city officials.

On Feb. 15, the city council unanimously passed a resolution calling for Maddox to resign. Maddox said he will not resign.

Congress gave the council no legal authority to remove the IG. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who appointed Maddox, is the only D.C. government official who can fire him. The mayor has so far declined to do so.

Therein lies the dilemma.

Clearly, Congress did not envision Williams’ office becoming the subject of an investigation by the inspector general when it vested the mayor with sole authority for removing the IG from office. Williams maintains that "it would be wholly inappropriate for me to say anything" about the IG’s job status while the IG’s office continues its more than year-long investigation into the extent of apparent fund-raising improprieties by the mayor’s staff.

Maddox has publicly chided city leaders for allegedly trying to pressure him into prematurely releasing his investigation report because of their political concerns about the mayor’s re-election campaign.

Other troubling facts have emerged as the Maddox dilemma unfolds.

When the city council confirmed Maddox’s appointment as IG, the legislative document it officially approved said Maddox was filling his predecessor’s unexpired term, ending in January 2002. Maddox, the mayor and officials of the city’s former financial control board (which signed off on the council’s action) all say the documents are wrong – that Williams meant to appoint Maddox to a new, full term of office.

Despite the official documents, Maddox remains in office and on the public payroll. No formal action has been taken to "correct" the record – and Ward 5 Councilman Vincent Orange, who chairs the committee with oversight of Maddox’s office, continues to maintain that Maddox’s term has expired.

Apparently, it is acceptable practice in the D.C. government to disregard legal actions at a future date whenever it becomes convenient to do so. "Governing by convenience" seems to be a lesson learned from the way Congress rules the District.

Maddox, while a member of the Virginia and federal bar, is not licensed to practice law in the District. Many council members now say they feel they were misled during Maddox’s confirmation hearing, because they assumed he was the IG’s general counsel. Maddox had been moved to another position when his predecessor belatedly realized Maddox was not a member of the D.C. Bar, a legal requirement for the general counsel.

Persistent reports that the mayor and members of his staff have discussed, behind closed doors, some of the IG’s investigation findings seem to indicate that someone may be leaking information to the mayor’s office.

And we are told that Williams holds regular working meetings with Maddox, whose actions are legally supposed to be independent from the rest of the D.C. government.

The inspector general’s own credibility and integrity have become the issue. As long as Maddox remains in office, the findings of any investigation by his office are now questionable.

This situation is wholly untenable and is wasting taxpayers’ money.

Maddox must go. An independent inspector general must be beyond reproach.

Congress needs to step in and change this law now to provide an alternative means for the IG’s removal.

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator