A Hummel Report Investigation
Massachusetts was the first in the country to create the position 35 years ago and is one of 12 states nationwide to have an IG.
And, Berberick says, Florida has taken it one step further.
Berberick: ``They have 26 agencies each with their own inspector general: education, the jails, schools, Dade County, the list goes on.’’
In Rhode Island an inspector general bill has been filed each session for nearly a decade - including two on the House side and two on the Senate side in 2017. But they’ve gone nowhere. Berberick testified in May before the House Finance committee along with the lead sponsor of one of the bills, Rep. Robert Lancia, a Cranston Republican.
Hummel: ``What do you sense the hesitancy is on this?”
Lancia: ``Despite, I think, the gains that could be made financially, I mean I think there’s some worry that you’re giving up some authority or power. I get it, but ultimately the pros do outweigh the cons. I think we’ve seen Massachusetts and other states, where hundreds of millions of dollars have been saved.’’
Hummel: ``What do you think the biggest misconception is?’’
Berberick: ``That they’re attacked dogs, they’re political tools to torpedo people. And that’s a 180 from the truth.’’
One potential obstacle: who appoints the inspector general. Lancia’s bill calls for the governor, the general treasurer and attorney general to make the selection.. Another bill, sponsored by Representatives Jean Phillippe Barros of Pawtucket and Evan Shanley of Warwick, both Democrats, would have the Speaker decide, with confirmation by the Senate.
Hummel: ``What do you see as the pros and cons of each: having the Speaker appoint, as opposed to the governor?’’
Lancia: ``Nothing against this speaker per se, but you know as well as I do the history in this building, going back with Gordon Fox and Mr. Gallison and former Speakers. We’ve had a bit of a difficult history with these types of folks in these positions… I just think that they’re too close to the situation. We need somebody that would be not involved at all.’’
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello told us he is still studying the issue. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio was non-committal and Governor Raimondo said she is quote: ``open to examining this concept more closely.’’
Berberick said a Rhode Island Inspector General could start with something as simple as looking at the state fleet of cars, as he did when he was in Oklahoma.
Berberick: ``We found out there was a lot of extra military vehicles that were being licensed, insured, but not used. And we saved the post a couple of hundred thousand dollars. That’s small potatoes. But that could be something here, very easily implemented that absolutely would not put a person in the crosshairs. It would say let’s take inventory of all of the physical trucks and cars that are state licensed plated right now. What is the cost of those and are there ways to reduce the expense we’re paying for those?’’
Berberick is already looking to the 2018 session. He has created a website, Facebook Page and Twitter Account. And he’s determined to convince those in leadership this could help them in the long run.
Berberick: ``It will help protect the governor, it will help protect the five elected, senior officers of the state. Because unfortunately….I wouldn’t say it would put you out of a job, but gee wouldn’t it be nice if they got the bad news first from the IG, someone they know and trust, as opposed to going home and watching it on TV?’’
Lancia: ``People argue sometimes about things being preordained, and sometimes they are, you know, for a variety of reasons. But if you make the case, people will see the value and move forward.’’
Berberick: ``Give it a shot for five or 10 or 15 years, if it doesn’t work, can it. And I think everybody would be pleasantly surprised. And the leadership that has the courage to put this in, they’ll be heroes.: 16
At the State House, Jim Hummel for The Hummel Report.