A few items from the papers lately:
Philadelphia is taking the initial steps to make the city's Inspector General an independent office. As reported in the 6/13 Daily News ("Panel OKs independent insp. general," by Mark McDonald):
And as the current inspector general, R. Seth Williams, testified yesterday in City Council, "Anytime in the future a mayor theoretically could be upset about our investigations or maybe it hits too close to home and by a mark of the pen, 'poof!' you eliminate the office of IG. I think we don't want that to happen."
Joyce Wilkerson, Mayor Street's chief of staff, noted that the IG at present can't investigate allegations involving Council and the offices of other elected local officials. The new bill would give the IG that authority.
The Inky's piece on the same subject ("City Council moves to give wider power to Inspector General," by Patrick Kerkstra) has some additional information:
In a letter to Council, City Controller Alan Butkovitz identified 15 flaws in the proposed legislation, including no provision that the office be well-funded and a lack of clarity as to the "scope" of the inspector general's mission.
The committee amended the legislation to address some of his concerns, and further amendments seem likely once Council revisits the matter in September following its summer recess. Since the changes require an amendment to the City Charter, voters would have to approve the modifications, perhaps in November's general election.
A lingering concern is that a beefed-up Inspector General's Office may end up fighting for turf with other local investigatory agencies and bodies, such as the controller, the new ethics board, the district attorney and the state attorney general.
On another subject, the efforts to make Pennsylvania documents more accessible are picking up. According to the Inky ("Big boost for public records initiative," by Mark Scolforo 6/05) the state senate majority leader is supporting the change. The open records website (www.passopenrecords.org) is reporting that the Speaker's Commission is also in favor.