Panel selects finalist for inspector general

Baltimore Inspector General David McClintock will be offered the chance to take over as Jefferson Parish’s first inspector general after the parish’s Ethics and Compliance Commission voted to offer him the job Wednesday night.

Touting McClintock’s experience as the inspector general in a major city and his experience at rebuilding an agency, the commission said it has full confidence that McClintock will be the man needed to usher in a new era.

“It was a very difficult decision for me personally,” Commissioner Maria Cisneros said. “I feel for me, that he has everything that we’re looking for.”

The decision caps a push to reform the image of Jefferson Parish after the resignation and indictment of former Parish President Aaron Broussard and several of his underlings in the wake of corruption allegations. Federal prosecutors uncovered extensive conflicts of interests and outright abuses in Broussard’s administration, which have resulted in sprawling investigations.

Parish President John Young ran on the idea of creating an inspector general’s position as way to restore public confidence in the parish.

Margie Seeman, a member of local watchdog Citizens for Good Government, said the group is eager for the inspector general to usher in a new era in Jefferson Parish politics.

“We’ve been waiting for it a long time,” Seeman said Wednesday.

Young said that what is particularly encouraging about the inspector general position is the autonomy the office will enjoy.

Young has been pushing to have investigatory powers within parish government consolidated in the Inspector General’s Office because he thinks its independence will improve the process.

“It takes the politics out of it,” Young said.

The commission considered nearly 40 candidates for the position from around the country. Initially four finalists were identified, but that number was trimmed to three after one of the finalists was deemed not to meet the criteria initially outlined for the position.

In an interview last week, McClintock said that an inspector general has to be flexible in the staff he hires and the roles he assigns them. He said he was looking to leave Baltimore because he wanted an office with an independent funding source that wasn’t tied to the whims of a council or mayor.

When McClintock took over in Baltimore, he said, the office had been drastically cut and was basically a “shell” of its former self.

“I can’t tell you how much I long to just have a budget and allocate those funds as we see fit to do,” McClintock said, although he acknowledged that his budget has increased every year since he took over the position in 2010 while other Baltimore agencies have had their budgets cut.

McClintock, a lawyer and former police officer, told commissioners he’s accustomed to conducting both criminal and civil investigations, and planned to hit the ground running if offered the position. He said he believes that the sooner his office begins rooting out corruption, the faster it will build up momentum and public support.

During his interview he discussed investigations involving public credit cards and payroll fraud. He noted that in Baltimore he’s handled most investigations involving public corruption because the city’s police department has made reducing violent crime its focus.

McClintock said the key to success is following up on public complaints in a manner that creates system-wide improvements.

Commissioner William P. Chauvin noted that McClintock’s experiences in Baltimore should be invaluable as he tries to deal with Jefferson Parish, given the similarities in size and politics.

Chauvin made a point of praising his fellow commissioners for their hard work in making a choice.

“It appears he has the closest parallel to what we’re looking for in this job,” Chauvin said.

Commission Chairwoman Carroll Suggs said she was sold on McClintock by the passion he clearly brought to his work.

She added she was also impressed with the fact that he had his family accompany him to the area to get a feel for what Jefferson Parish had to offer.

“He genuinely and sincerely wants the job” Suggs said.

Commissioner Kyle Marks said that while all three finalists were stellar candidates, McClintock’s public and private interviews were on a different level. He said he feels the parish made the right choice.

“I think this is a great day for Jefferson Parish,” Marks said. “He was a step above.”

McClintock’s actual start date has not been confirmed by the commission, which needs to negotiate that and other issues with him, said Steven Scheckman, the commission’s attorney.

The commission will likely make an announcement on McClintock’s response and his expected start date at its February meeting.

The office’s budget is expected to be between $1 million and $1.5 million thanks to dedicated tax revenue.

Other finalists for the positions where David Holmgren, of Virgina, and Nicholas Shuler, of Chicago.