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Local officials, open-government advocates, discuss need for Inspector General

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

Local officials and advocates make their pitch for creating a state inspector general Monday night.

The event was hosted by the Delaware Coalition for Open Government, Delaware Press Association, Lead-Free Delaware, Common Cause Delaware, Network Delaware, and the League of Women Voters of NCC.

The former Delaware state auditor’s corruption trial last year and ongoing concerns over lead in schools were among issues advocates cited as examples pointing to the need for an IG.

Lead-Free Delaware co-chair Sarah Bucic says what they’ve gone through to ensure school lead testing is done correctly is something no citizen should be left to handle.

“We're not asking for changes, we're asking for them to carry out things the way that they are supposed to be carried out," Bucic says. "For example, with the school testing in the water, we were asking them to follow the EPA. And you know, we had to build a coalition and go to the EPA and get the EPA involved and, and it's really something that you know, is is not a normal thing to have to ask citizenry to do. You know, it's really above and beyond.”

State Rep. Mike Smith and State Sen. Laura Sturgeon plan to sponsor a bill authorizing the creation of an Inspector General’s Office. A similar bill was introduced last session, but languished in committee.

Sturgeon says an inspector general’s office would cost about $1 million per year, which she argues is a good investment to bolster the public’s trust in government.

State Sen. Laura Sturgeon estimates an inspector general’s office would cost about $1 million annually in a $5 billion state budget, which she calls a good investment to help restore public trust in government.

Stephen Street has been the Louisiana State Inspector General since 2008. He says an IG typically has jurisdiction over the attorney general, governor, lieutenant governor, state treasurer, all departments, boards and commissions, public colleges and universities, and anyone that does business with any of those entities.

“The IG is in a spot where they're going to wade into the toxic cases that no one else will touch," Street says. "And certainly the ones that elected officials run from because they're guaranteed to infuriate people, because sometimes the case is hit and you've got folks on both sides of it. And no matter where you land, you're going to upset folks. that's just the way it is.”

Creating an Office of the Inspector General would require a bill passed by the General Assembly, and a constitutional amendment to bar the IG from running for office.

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.