On an otherwise quiet Tuesday in the Jacksonville City Council Rules Committee, the panel moved to remove the provision that the inspector general shall not have been employed by city government or any other governmental entity within two years before before being selected, unless the appointment was in the IG’s office.
The bill, moved on an emergency basis, was timed to help facilitate the city government’s search for a new inspector general, after the previous one resigned earlier this spring.
Former City Hall attorney Steve Rohan serves currently as the interim inspector general.
The bill simply deletes the two-year requirement, said President-Designate Lori Boyer, that was adopted in a Rules Committee amendment in 2014 at the urging of the council auditor’s office, which was worried their employees would be “poached.”
Boyer, who helms the Inspector General Selection and Retention Committee, notes the committee wants the restriction lifted from the ordinance to broaden the pool to people employed by independent authorities and the sheriff’s office.
If there were “potential conflicts,” Boyer said they would be discussed in the hiring process.
Ethics head Carla Miller believes the idea a “fallacy” that someone who has been gone for two years automatically has the necessary “degree of independence.”
Ultimately, it is council’s decision, she said.
Rules Committee members pushed back.
Anna Brosche said she had “reservations,” but could support it nonetheless. Tommy Hazouri “shared those same concerns,” but said he’d support the measure nonetheless.
John Crescimbeni, who is not a Rules member, expressed concerns about “poaching city employees” and also posed the idea that someone who left an agency could give proper “scrutiny” in that investigation.
“The risk of coming from somewhere in city government that may be the subject of a complaint” worried Crescimbeni.
Miller said that risk was a potential issue, and that the inspector general’s office needed to develop a policy to deal with it.
“We have to depend on the integrity of the person we hire for that position,” Miller said, and “protocols and rules have to be established.”
Crescimbeni noted a previous iteration of the inspector general “worked for the mayor, so there [was] no independence.”
“That doesn’t always pass the smell test in the eyes of the public,” Crescimbeni said.
Boyer noted that familiarity with how city government works creates an advantage for an incoming candidate, in terms of knowing where the issues were, as compared to a candidate, such as the previous IG, who was from out of town and out of his depth.
Crescimbeni pushed for an amendment to outline the procedure for how an internal candidate might handle potential conflicts of interest. Ethics head Miller said more IG-related “cleanup bills” will be coming before the committee to address that and other issues, but Crescimbeni was not mollified, wanting an amendment ahead of Tuesday.
Interim IG Rohan noted there is a “very elite and accomplished selection committee … vetting the candidates and making good decisions.”
Rohan said if Crescimbeni’s logic were extended, no candidate who had ever worked for the city could qualify for the position.
“You have a solution that you’re looking for a problem for,” Rohan said, given the “superb” committee in place.
“I can’t imagine an official of the city whom I would not be willing to investigate,” said Rohan, including a member of the Office of General Counsel, city council, or the mayor.
Rohan, meanwhile, “has not ruled out” filling the role himself, albeit on a part-time basis that wouldn’t impact his retirement.
Concerns about independence (or the lack thereof) notwithstanding, Rules passed the measure 6-0, which will need to be approved by the full council on June 14.