Sheppard Calls for Overhaul of Office of Public Integrity

Citing Mayor Warren’s reductions in staffing and the potential conflict of interest in the current Office of Public Integrity, Monroe County Legislator and Rochester Mayoral candidate James Sheppard today outlined his plan to restore public confidence in City government with a new Office of Public Integrity.

“We have seen all too often over the past few years what happens when power goes unchecked,” Sheppard said.  “From the nepotism in hiring her uncle for her security detail and attempting to hire her friend to lead the Rochester Housing Authority, to meddling in the School District’s Facilities Program and hosting a job fair to benefit her former Chief of Staff’s company, it’s time to set aside Mayor Warren’s personal interests and focus on the good of the community.”

Under Mayor Warren, the Office of Public Integrity has been substantially weakened. No longer staffed with investigators from the Rochester Police Department, as was previous practice, the office has been reduced to performing audits. Even that function has been compromised, however, as the OPI budget was further cut and staff reduced in Mayor Warren’s recent budget.

“In the Sheppard Administration, the Office of Public Integrity will be robust, proactive and transparent,” Sheppard said. “We will adopt the nationally-recognized standards of the National Association of Inspectors General, ensure the independence of the Office, and institute a five-year term for its Director.”

Sheppard noted that a potential conflict of interest was uncovered by a recent Democrat and Chronicle report.  Timothy Weir, the Director of the Office of Public Integrity and the person charged with providing independent oversight of City government operations, was a contributor to Mayor Warren’s election campaign.  “That will not be allowed in the OPI,” Sheppard said.  “Nor will senior managers in a Sheppard administration be allowed to engage in outside employment.” Several members of Mayor Warren’s administration, including the Director of OPI, the Deputy Mayor, and the former Corporation Counsel, currently hold or held positions outside of City Hall.

“City taxpayers deserve the complete focus of the Mayor and her staff,” Sheppard said.  “After all, there is plenty to do.  And while the poor get poorer, crime in our toughest neighborhoods continues to increase, and schools continue to fail, taxpayers foot the bill for salaries that are often four times what they make themselves.”

Integrity is a key tenant of Sheppard’s campaign for Mayor. He served as Director of the City’s Office of Public Integrity in 2010, and pushed for a stronger OPI for Monroe County as a County Legislator last year. 

James Sheppard's Plan for City's Office of Public Integrity

To ensure the City’s Office of Public Integrity is held to the highest professional standards, I would require that it be certified by the National Association of Inspectors General.

Other major improvements will include:

  • A five-year term for the OPI Director

  • To ensure independence, Director cannot be fired without cause

  • OPI’s authority, jurisdiction, and powers will be defined in the City Charter

  • Formal adoption of the nationally recognized Inspector General standards

  • AIG peer review and accreditation

  • Full transparency and public reporting

  • Full access to all City departments, boards and commissions so the Office can:

    • Examine books and records
    • Conduct criminal investigations with subpoena power
    • Issue administrative subpoenas, administer oaths and compel attendance of witnesses
    • Review any relevant data, information or statements, unless prohibited or limited by law
    • Conduct regular inspections to prevent and detect waste, fraud and abuse

 

Without true independence and the tools necessary to investigate properly, an Office of Public Integrity is toothless and ineffective.  Similar concerns are why I voted against a proposal to enact an OPI at the County level that did not provide that level of independence.