By Nathan Volke
Councilman, District 3
Your new Anne Arundel County Council has been in office for just over one month. In that time, I have been pushing hard on something I campaigned to do: make local government more transparent. The issue of transparency has come up in two areas in just the past few weeks: 1) appointing a new county auditor and 2) the process that ended the 287(g) program.
The county auditor in Anne Arundel County is selected by and reports to the county council. The auditor’s office ensures that the money appropriated by the county council is spent by the county executive and other county departments in the correct way. This is a vital position because it serves as the fiscal watchdog for the county’s money — and your tax dollars.
When we first took office in early December, the county council members learned that our current county auditor was scheduled to retire on December 31. We had to select a replacement, and fast. In the past, the county council has chosen someone who already works within the auditor’s office to serve as the new auditor. But I and others on the council had a significant concern: how do we know that we have the best candidate for the position in-house? We have some tremendously intelligent and capable people in our county auditor’s office, which is one of the best in Maryland. But there are also many smart, hardworking people in the private sector and other parts of government who might be qualified for the position.
Fortunately, the council was able to come up with a bipartisan solution: advertise the position, seek applicants, interview the applicants and select the best candidate. Sound familiar? Of course it does. That is how most jobs get filled. It’s just common sense. It also sets a more transparent standard for selecting people for some of the top jobs in Anne Arundel County government. And I think that is a good thing.
Another area to which I am currently working to bring transparency is the termination of the 287(g) program by County Executive Steuart Pittman. The 287(g) program deputizes highly trained detention officers to assist in screening individuals during the booking process at our local detention centers after they have been arrested and charged with a crime. While I feel strongly that 287(g) is a solid program that worked well here in Anne Arundel County, and I wish the administration had taken the time to hear that argument before terminating it, I also realize that there is another argument on the other side that is worthy of discussion.
I am happy that we are finally having a discussion around the merits of 287(g) as a result of a resolution I introduced that asks the county executive to reinstitute the program. Discussion around issues like this one between citizens and their elected officials — before policy decisions are made — is what government and making policy is all about. In my opinion, discussions like this one lead to better understanding and better policy.
While I hope that the county executive changes his decision and decides to reinstate the 287(g) program in Anne Arundel County to make our community safer, at least I can say I was part of bringing that debate to the people who elected us, and we heard from them. You elected me to listen and then act, not the other way around. I intend to act accordingly.