The Atlanta City Council officially established the Office of Inspector General on Monday, following months of discussion between the council and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms about how to best root out corruption at City Hall.
Monday’s unanimous vote occurred against the backdrop of ongoing investigations by multiple federal agencies including the Department of Justice, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
City officials hope the office will help avert future scandals, along with any attempted state takeover of the city’s most significant asset: Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
The legislation will make the current nine-member ethics board the Inspector General’s governing board. The board will appoint the IG by a two-thirds vote. The Inspector General will serve a five-year term, subject to approval of the mayor and a majority of the council.
Councilwoman Jennifer Ide, who led negotiations with the mayor’s office, said that $800,000 allocated in this year’s budget for an independent compliance office could be used to fund the position, because the compliance office was never staffed.
Ide said the search and hiring process will be up to the IG board.
“I hope they take the matter up at their next meeting to develop a job description and search process,” Ide said in a text message.
The Ethics Board next meets on Feb. 20.
Bottoms’ office issued a statement after the vote, saying the mayor appreciated the work of a task force that recommended the IG position and the city council that passed the legislation.
A handful of council members held weeks of negotiations with Bottoms’ office over how the IG office would function.
“I called for the creation of the Inspector General to ensure we have the strongest safeguards possible to prevent corruption in City Hall,” Bottoms’ statement said.
The Ethics Officer will report directly to the new IG board, but the IG will oversee and coordinate the investigations of the three divisions that the new agency will house — Ethics, Independent Procurement Review, and Compliance.
The Ethics Division will continue to oversee the city’s code of conduct, including conflicts of interest and the filing of financial disclosures.
The Independent Review Officers will continue to spot check the procurement in contracts involving more than $1 million.
And the Compliance Division would “investigate and take appropriate action” regarding, among other things, “the performance and financial operation of all departments, offices, boards, activities and agencies of the city,” in which the auditor determines the presence of fraud waste and abuse.
There was a significant battle over whether the auditor would also report directly to the IG, but the legislation passed Monday maintains the auditor’s independence.
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