Returning to the question I started the blog with: “Can someone who is hired and fired by the mayor conduct an independent investigation?”
The OEI’s handling of the Sunroad investigation answers this question.
A definitive “no.”
The OEI lacks the checks and balances necessary to conduct or oversee a truly independent investigation. While it is impossible to achieve 100% independence, there are processes that can be put in place to help insulate the investigating body from political pressure.
Take the Ethics Commission. The Executive Director is hired and fired by the Commission. The commissioners are appointed by the Mayor from a pool of nominees nominated by the Council and City Attorney and confirmed by Council. The system may not be perfect, but it is better than having a deputy chief, who reports to the Mayor, conducting an investigation of city management and staff.
The Mayor’s press release, which announced the creation of the OEI in February of 2006 stated,
“This office has been established to lead a cultural change in ethical practices within City government so that public trust is restored in City Hall.”
Mr. Mayor, I hate to break it to you, but the OEI has only exacerbated the problem of public trust.
— LANI LUTAR