A disagreement over the state’s low grade on a corruption risk report card has sparked a debate between the governor’s office and the independent organization that compiled the report.
After Maryland Patch politics reporter Bryan P. Sears highlighted the release of a State Integrity Investigation report that gave Maryland a D- for corruption risk, the governor’s office responded by debunking a number of claims in the investigation.
“The whole thing is very sketchy,” wrote Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O’Malley, in an email to Sears, which was posted on his blog. “The report is very flawed. [It] makes very sweeping statements without any evidence of its findings.”
Her email, published in full in Sears’ blog, disputed what she called inaccuracies in the report. For example, the reporter for the State Integrity Investigation, Christian Bourge, wrote that citizens couldn’t access itemized budget allocations due to secrecy, prohibitive barriers or government inefficiency. But, Guillory responded that the information is posted publicly on the state’s website and is itemized and searchable.
Despite Guillory’s claims, a spokesperson for the State Integrity Investigation said it stands by Bourge’s reporting.
“Reporter Christian Bourge gave strong sources and extensive comments to back up the score for each question,” Caitlin Ginley wrote in an email. “We stand by his reporting 100 percent.”
“On the question about itemized expenditures,” wrote Ginley, “Christian’s sources indicated that information was not available. There is a budget website, but it did not meet the standard we asked for in this question – detailed breakdowns of funds for each agency and department.”
In fact, the site contains itemized breakdowns of funds for each agency and department in past budget cycles.
Guillory also pointed out alleged inaccuracies regarding the process of redistricting in her email. Bourge found that public plans for redistricting were not allowed for consideration by the redistricting policy body or were given discriminatory treatment, rendering them meaningless. Guillory said third party plans were accepted by the state and guidelines for the submittal process were posted online.
“On the redistricting questions,” wrote Ginley, “Christian gives much greater detail to back up his scores, which is available on the website. The questions get to the reality of the state’s redistricting process. Christian’s reporting revealed that despite what the state says (it does hold meetings and accept plans), the meetings were not very meaningful in allowing for real public input.”
Bourge’s biography on the State Integrity Investigation website credits him with 15 years of experience covering the federal government for the National Journal, UPI and as a columnist for the Washington Times. Currently he pens The Disenchanted Journo blog, according to the bio, but that blog is no longer active.
Maryland was ranked 40 out of the 50 states on the corruption risk report card. No state was given above a B+ in the report; 26 states received a D or lower. The investigation was administered by the Center for Public Integrity and billed itself as a data-driven analysis of each state’s laws and practices that deter corruption and promote accountability and openness.