May 25, 2010

Facing criticism, Leggett blames Watchdog

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett's administration says public criticism by the inspector general violated local law, igniting a spat with the county's lead watchdog. During a County Council committee meeting in March, Inspector General Thomas Dagley accused the Leggett administration of hindering a handful of damaging investigations to county agencies. Chief Administrative Officer Timothy Firestine -- two months later -- is countering that Dagley broke county law by not informing his office of obstacles before going public with his criticisms.

According to a letter obtained by The Washington Examiner, Firestine says Dagley was required to "immediately notify me if you have any problems obtaining documents or information from executive departments."

It also reads, "I believe that the significant time and effort that has been devoted to investigating all of your unsubstantiated allegations, although necessary, was a regrettable use of county resources."

Firestine found no evidence of interference with Dagley's work, according to the letter.

Dagley says the county attorney's office, by sharing information with police, hampered his examination of Montgomery's much-maligned tuition assistance program. The county is suing a police officer who allegedlyused more than $400,000 in public money to sell discounted guns to police officers and prison guards. Dagley called the cooperation "contrary to the basic principles and standards needed to ensure the independence of OIG work, protect confidential information and safeguard the identity of confidential sources" in a statement released Monday.

There was also interference with an investigation into a four-car pileup caused by an intoxicated former assistant county fire chief and payments to a child care center for low-income immigrants, Dagley says.

In an interview with The Examiner, Leggett called the claims against his administration "baseless" and added, "There is no smoking gun. What is it they are looking for?"

Council Vice President Valerie Ervin, D-Silver Spring, didn't take sides but referenced money the council restored last week to the inspector general's budget. Leggett had proposed slashing the department's funding by 54 percent. SOURCE: Washington Examiner

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