Philadelphia City Councilman James F. Kenney plans to introduce a bill Thursday to make the Inspector General’s Office an independent and permanent part of city government, free to ferret out fraud and corruption without fear of political interference.
The position, created by an executive order from Mayor W. Wilson Goode in 1984, is now appointed by, and serves at the will of, the mayor.
Kenney’s bill, to be introduced at Council’s first meeting of the year, would create a ballot initiative for the May primary, asking voters to enshrine the inspector general in the City Charter.
“The issue is, if [Mayor Nutter] leaves, what happens to the office?” said Kenney, who is considering a run for mayor. “If I were elected, I would keep it, but I don’t know if anyone else would.”
Under the ballot initiative, the mayor still would name the inspector general, but the appointee would serve a five-year term and could be removed only for cause and after a hearing. The office also would get its own budget; funding is now controlled by the mayor.
Inspector General Amy L. Kurland said the changes would protect the office from political interference.
“A mayor can come in and say, ‘I want you to investigate my political enemies,’ or ‘Lay off a particular investigation,’ ” she said.
Nutter strengthened the position after taking office in 2008, naming Kurland, a former assistant U.S. attorney with a history of breaking up corruption.
That year, Nutter pushed a bill similar to Kenney’s but with one exception – the inspector general would have been allowed to investigate elected officials, including Council members, for the first time.
That bill died in committee. Kenney’s new version does not expand the inspector general’s powers to include elected officials.
“Our thought is, that’s what Council wants,” Kurland said. “We’re really not reaching. We’re trying to maintain what we have.”
In 2008, some Council members questioned why the city controller or district attorney could not cover the duties of inspector general, charged with fighting fraud, waste, and abuse.
Kurland said certain cases fall between the cracks because they do not concern financial auditing or criminal behavior.
Kurland said investigations by her office have led to 166 city employees being fired or resigning, and 44 arrests or indictments.
The office has a budget of about $1.3 million.
“We pay for ourselves many times over,” Kurland said. “It’s a good bargain.”
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