Legislation has Been Filed to Create the Office of the Inspector General in Delaware


Legislation that would create the Office of the Inspector General, Senate Bill 21, has been filed in the Delaware General Assembly. Sponsored by Senator Laura Sturgeon(D), this would create a new, independent watchdog agency empowered to investigate waste, fraud and abuse in the executive and legislative branches of the state government. If passed by the General Assembly, the Office of the Inspector General would be operational by early 2025.

Additional information from Senate Majority Caucus:

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG), would be a nonpartisan agency capable of undertaking investigations, issuing public opinions, and initiating civil proceedings against state officials accused of violating the public’s trust.

“Delawareans deserve a state government that holds itself to the highest ethical standards, fully adheres to the letter of the law, and never wavers in its commitment to uphold the public’s trust,” Sen. Sturgeon said.

“As elected officials of this state, we owe our constituents more transparency and accountability” she said. “The bill I am introducing today will give our fellow Delawareans more certainty than ever that their elected officials are upholding their oaths of office and greater assurance that the state agencies tasked with working in the public interest are living up to that mission with honor
and integrity. I believe this measure will provide that oversight and, in doing so, help to preserve the public’s faith in its democratic institutions for decades to come.”

Delaware is currently one of only 15 states without an Inspector General of any kind, a gap in oversight that the Delaware Coalition for Open Government (DelCOG), the Delaware Press Association, and other public watchdog advocates have urged lawmakers in the First State to fill for several years.

SB 21 would fill that void by making Delaware only the seventh state to create a government-wide Office of Inspector General with full subpoena powers and the authority to investigate alleged violations of state law and the state employee code of conduct, along with other forms of mismanagement and corruption.

“The Delaware Coalition for Open Government supports passage of SB 21, which will establish a nonpartisan Delaware Office of the Inspector General (OIG),” the coalition’s board of directors announced in a statement. “The OIG will assist state agencies to focus on their missions by reinforcing agency policies and procedures, by investigating wrongdoing if necessary, and ultimately enhancing public trust through independent oversight. DelCOG thanks Sen. Laura Sturgeon and the bipartisan group of sponsors for introducing SB 21 and urges quick consideration and passage of the bill.”

Under SB 21, the Delaware Secretary of State would be required to convene a 15-member selection panel to recommend three Inspector General candidates to the Governor, who would nominate one for Senate confirmation.

The term of the Inspector General would last 5 years to ensure the position carries over from one governor to the next. At the end of the 5-year term, the Inspector General position would either be reconfirmed, or the position refilled, depending on the recommendation of the selection panel and the nomination of the Governor.

No statewide public office holder, member of the General Assembly, cabinet secretary or division director would be eligible to hold the office of Inspector General for at least three years after they leave office.

Once confirmed by the Senate, the Inspector General would hire a Deputy Inspector General and a staff qualified in conducting investigations, audits or other forms of oversight or government evaluation.

The OIG would be required to maintain a statewide toll-free number, a collect telephone number, a website, an email address, and a mailing address for receiving complaints into fraud, waste, mismanagement, corruption, or other abuses of government resources that harm the public interest. The OIG would be required to notify a complainant if it opts not to pursue a complaint.

“A responsible government is an accountable government. We must do all we can to ensure public officials are held to the high standard that all Delawareans expect,” said Senate Minority Whip Brian Pettyjohn, a co-prime sponsor of SB 21. “Creating the Office of the Inspector General would do just that. Having an official and agency free from electoral politics to help keep the government
in check is necessary and long overdue.”

Under SB 21, OIG also could initiate its own investigations using its statutorily granted subpoena powers. At the conclusion of an investigation, the OIG would be required to issue a decision, including recommended next steps, on its public website.

Any evidence of a crime would be forwarded to the Department of Justice or other appropriate law enforcement agency for prosecution. The OIG also would be empowered to initiate a civil action in the courts on its own.

“There have been far too many examples where various entities have failed to live up to the standards of public trust in Delaware,” said Rep. Kim Williams, co-chair of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee and the prime House sponsor of SB 21. “We have long been admired for our Delaware Way of politics which features honest discussion and collaboration, much like this bipartisan piece of legislation. The Office of the Inspector General will make sure that our state moves forward in an open, fair and responsible way for all Delawareans in the years ahead.”

To ensure that the state’s various watchdog entities are not duplicating efforts, SB 21 would require the OIG to work collaboratively with the Delaware Department of Justice, which investigates and prosecutes criminal activity; the Delaware Auditor of Accounts, which investigates financial records; and the Public Integrity Commission, which enforces the Code of Conduct and conflict of interest in contracting among executive branch personnel.

SB 21 also includes language to protect the identity of complainants. The names of state employees also would be protected if an investigation finds no instances of wrongdoing.

SB 21 has been assigned to the Senate Executive Committee.