Boston Inspector General proposal draws pushback as it moves toward vote

City Council President Andrea Campbell’s proposal to create a city inspector general is drawing fire from the city administration and existing watchdogs, though the councilor says she plans to move for a vote before the council term wraps up at the end of the year.

Campbell’s bill shows up on Wednesday’s agenda as a possible action item, but she told the Herald after a working group meeting that she’s not looking for a vote this week — but plans on one by the end of the year.

The bill, which came following various City Hall scandals including a zoning board member pleading guilty to federal bribery charges, would create a new inspector general position with the aim of rooting out corruption and enforcing city bylaws, and a board to oversee that position.

Campbell said this can fix the city’s problem of having “policies that we implement on paper but don’t always show up in practice.”

Neil Doherty of Mayor Martin Walsh’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, who attended the meeting in addition to representatives from existing watchdog organizations, said Walsh would not sign Campbell’s bill in its current version because of legal issues. He pointed out that the city charter bars the council from creating new boards or departments. In addition, he said, the city can’t oversee outside agencies like the Boston Planning & Development Authority, as the law would require of the inspector general.

“Mayor Walsh would not be able to sign that ordinance,” Doherty said.

Campbell said that the change could be done another way, like a home-rule petition, which requires the Legislature and governor to sign off on a change to the city charter.

“I do think the charter issues are not insurmountable,” the Mattapan councilor said.

Campbell asked Doherty if the mayor supported the general idea behind the creation of an inspector general, and he did not commit, saying it would depend on the specifics of what ends up in the proposal.

Richard Iannella, a former city councilor who now sits on the board of the Boston Finance Commission, panned the idea of the ordinance change, saying this is a slap in the face to existing watchdogs like the Finance Commission, and is simply “Big Brother” further pressing down on government workers.

“Everything you’re asking to do in this ordinance, we have the authority to do today,” said Iannella of the Finance Commission, a state-created city watchdog organization.



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