Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: City Council President’s proposal for full-time inspector general is the right move to subdue corruption in Boston

The City of Boston has had a summer ridden with corruption; top headlines often sported the image of Mayor Martin Walsh’s aides and other officials in court trials and in response, City Council President Andrea Campbell has called for the city to create a position in City Hall that would investigate suspected corruption, according to WBUR.

One case dates back to 2014, when two aides in the mayor’s office refused permits to Crash Line Productions, the company in charge of providing employees to work the popular music festival Boston Calling, and were ultimately found guilty of conspiring to extort the organizers.

The other well-known scandal Boston endured recently was a textbook case of corruption, involving a planning agency official that recently pleaded guilty to accepting a $50,000 bribe to push a developer’s permits toward approval.

Campbell’s proposal to add a full-time position for an official to look into corruption is a smart move in the wake of such high-profile cases and is a much-needed expansion of the roles of the ethics committee, which currently only reviews the city’s ethics policies but does not investigate the violations of such policies.

At the moment, the city brings in outside counsel to investigate scandals as they are revealed, but  Campbell suggests hiring “an Inspector General to bring permanent, proactive, independent oversight of Boston’s city government.”

This is potentially costly to the city and its taxpayers, however the salary of an official that could prevent scandals before they appear would provide invaluable long-term benefits for the city, and over time potentially become cheaper than individual investigation costs.

The proposed inspector general would serve a five-year term, which will hopefully relieve any conceived pressure to create quick results. A city that has unfortunately become characterized by corruption at times needs someone in this position committed to long-term goals, regardless of their own career aspirations.

The position should not only be investigative, but preventative. Prosecuting criminals as they appear in government is not enough — they must do what they can to ensure they never get the chance to prioritize personal or political goals over the law.

The board that would appoint the inspectors will be composed of members of the community and city employees, which is the best choice for an initiative aimed at checking the power of city officials.

Dissenters can claim that all humans are fallible and ultimately susceptible to bribery or corruption, but that fact will never change, and should not stop the city from working toward improvement using the best resource we have — people. 

Elected or appointed officials have a duty to the residents of Boston to recognize their power as a privilege — not a right — that has been given to them by the people and with the help of an inspector general can be taken away by those same people.

While most scandals are at the hands of just a few, the city has a responsibility to its population to address corruption full-time when it is so widespread that it begins to define Boston politics. Taxpayers do not hand their money to the government for it to then benefit individuals over the community. 

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