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Sun Gazette: General Assembly may weigh in on Arlington inspector-general fight Print

Created:  January 16, 2015 8:00AM

The General Assembly soon may be playing referee on the question over the County Board's authority to employ an inspector general.

Legislation has been drafted, but not yet introduced, to give County Board members the ability to directly employ a top auditor, rather than have that position located within the county government's bureaucracy.

Currently, board members are limited to hiring and firing the county manager, county attorney and clerk to the board.

"I look at this as a good-government bill – good government is open government," said Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), who had the measure prepared at the request of County Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt.

Hope on Jan. 15 said he was aiming to "take the temperature of the community" on the measure in coming days before deciding whether to introduce it in the 2015 session. He said he would move forward "if the public thinks this is a good idea."

Among those not sure it is? County Board Chairman Mary Hynes. She suggested it may be a solution in search of a problem.

"I understand the desire" to have an independent inspector general (or auditor) outside the government bureaucratic structure, Hynes told the Sun Gazette. "I'm totally in favor of checks and balances. It's just not clear to me that [County Board members] have a shared understanding of where we want to end up. I want to be sure that whatever we do provides what we need."

Hope said the measure would provide board members the ability to move forward with an inspector general, but only if they saw fit to do so.

"It doesn't require Arlington to have one – this would just allow them," he said.

Hynes countered that the proposal wasn't brought up by Hope, Vihstadt or Garvey during the run-up to the 2015 session, and expressed concern that once a bill is in the hands of the majority in Richmond, it could be amended to force Arlington to take action.

If introduced, approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, the County Board would be able to exercise its hiring authority as early as July.

And if it passes? "We'll look at it and we'll see," said Hynes, perhaps quietly confident that there is a three-member board majority (herself, Jay Fisette and Walter Tejada) that has the power to block it.