Rochester, New York – Legislator James M. Sheppard (D – Rochester), a former director of the City of Rochester’s own Office of Public Integrity (OPI), believes that Monroe County’s proposed office is compromised by not being given the appropriate independence and oversight necessary to do its job effectively.
“I took the initiative to reach out to the County Executive in writing because she has shown a willingness to amend this legislation to better serve the needs of the people of Monroe County. My colleagues and I share her vision of creating a county government that is the most transparent and ethical in the nation,” said Legislator Sheppard. “I believe that the citizens of Monroe County deserve oversight of county government that is neither compromised in its creation nor weak in its execution. Furthermore, this is an opportunity to create a legacy of accountability in government that all citizens can be proud of.”
Legislator Sheppard suggested a series of additional changes to the draft legislation in a letter to County Executive Dinolfo on February 17. Drawn directly from the standards of the national Association of Inspectors General, these changes include:
- Establishing an independent selection committee to recommend candidates for the County Executive to select from, with its members being:
- The Monroe County District Attorney;
- A Police Chief, designated by the Monroe County Association of Chiefs of Police;
- An attorney with experience dealing with investigations of fraud, theft, deception or conspiracy, designated by the Monroe County Bar Association;
- A Certified Public Accountant with experience in forensic auditing or internal controls, designated by the Rochester Chapter of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants;
- The chairperson of the existing Monroe County Board of Ethics, whose members are appointed by the County Executive, subject to Legislature approval.
- Giving the Office the mission of establishing fraud control programs, inspections, and operational surveys to identify and address shortcomings that could lead to abuse or fraud before there is any waste or misuse of public funds.
- Establishing specific qualifications for those appointed as Director of the Office of Public Integrity, including ten years of experience in relevant fields, such as the judiciary, law enforcement, or fraud investigation.
- Requiring that the Director and office staff attain certifications to the qualification standards of the Association of Inspectors General.
- Requiring that audit and investigative findings be publically reported.
- Establishing legal consequences for those found guilty of purposely impeding or obstructing an investigation of the Office.
- Giving the Office the authority to conduct criminal investigations when necessary.
“Four guilty pleas were just entered in relation to the criminal LDC scheme that an independent audit says cost county taxpayers tens of millions of dollars,” Legislator Sheppard said. “Creating an Office of Public Integrity that does not have a proactive mandate to prevent fraud, waste and abuse through inspections, review and audits, and provide the kind of oversight that could have prevented that scandal is unacceptable. We need to demonstrate that we have learned from the past and are not willing to compromise our integrity as we look to the future.”