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Accountabilityby Mark Reutter8:21 pmDec 11, 20230

Julian Jones changes the amendments he tried to get the Baltimore County Council to pass last week

His latest effort would alter the composition of a much-criticized inspector general oversight board and make it harder to subpoena documents from contractors doing business with the county

Above: Julian Jones, third from left, celebrates the opening of the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market in Owings Mills last Thursday. (Facebook)

On the eve of tomorrow’s public work session, Baltimore County Council Chair Julian E. Jones Jr. has amended the inspector general amendments he secretly tried to get approved last week, while lamenting that he’s the victim of a “tremendous amount of misinformation and disinformation being spread and reported.”

Jones’ first batch of amendments – disclosed by The Brew last Monday at approximately the same time he was holding a private, off-the-record meeting with other Council members – caused an uproar.

The changes were denounced by Inspector General Kelly Madigan and rejected by County Executive Johnny Olszewski as undermining legislation developed after months of study by a blue ribbon commission.

In the wake of the criticism, Jones did not publicly post the amendments on the county council website.

When the amendments finally appeared online today, they differed from his earlier version in several ways.

A proposed advisory board – earlier rejected by the blue ribbon panel as compromising the office’s independence – would now be headed by the director of the county ethics board rather than the county attorney.

The members would be chosen by two law school deans, the county bar association president, Morgan State University and the American Civil Liberties Union instead of being county officials and appointees of the county executive.

The advisory board proposed by Jones, however, would still have the power to review and propose changes to IG reports that address complaints of fraud and abuse of county resources.

Other duties would include reviewing ongoing IG investigations, conducting an annual performance review and “ensur[ing] the inspector general complies with all applicable laws, policies and operational procedures.”

These stipulations run counter to national best practices, the Association of Inspectors General said today in a statement calling on the Baltimore County Council to reject Jones’ changes.

Another revision that Jones is pushing would require a Circuit Court judge to approve IG subpoenas for “documents not maintained by Baltimore County government,” potentially crippling the office’s ability to get records from contractors and vendors who do business with the county.

Subject of Two Investigations

Jones has been the subject of two Madigan investigative reports.

The first found that he had improperly used the county’s email network to solicit campaign donations and the second reported that he had directly aided a Towson businessman and campaign contributor who wanted the county to repair a private alley.

Jones publicly attacked Madigan at a Council hearing in 2021 for writing a report documenting unauthorized purchases by William “Chris” McCollum, who recently pleaded guilty to embezzling over $140,000 from two political campaign accounts and is now serving a six-month sentence at the county detention center.

Madigan called Jones’ latest amendments “inconsistent with how other IGs run their operations.”

“I will oppose the latest changes, which were done by the chair without any consultation with my office or with the administration, and which run counter to the lengthy public process conducted by the blue ribbon commission,” she said.

“I will oppose the latest changes”  – County IG Kelly Madigan.

Meanwhile, Jones claimed to a constituent that he’s been unfairly treated by the media.

“The amendments I propose do not weaken the Office of the Inspector General, as the OIG is currently seeking new powers,” he wrote in an email. “The amendments I propose strengthen the Office of the Inspector General and provide some checks and balances and transparency to the office.”

Jones has not responded to questions from The Brew. When asked by another publication why he had drafted the amendments, he replied, “Why ask why?”

Today 3rd District Councilman Wade Kach said he fully supports Madigan and will oppose “any effort to water down the office’s authority.”

Kach joins four other members of the Council – Todd Crandell, David Marks, Izzy Patoka and Pat Young – who said at last week’s Council meeting that they would back the original IG bills, with Patoka voting against delaying the vote to accommodate Jones.

Wade Kach supports an Independent IGIzzy Patoka IG support

• To reach a reporter: reuttermark@yahoo.com

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