Prince George’s Hotline designed to protect tax dollars, wastes tax dollars

Prince George’s Hotline designed to protect tax dollars, wastes tax dollars. (ABC7)

A Prince George’s County program designed to protect your money was doing the exact opposite.

Prince George's County Ethics and Accountability Hotline was created so people could report government waste. But the I-Team learned it was the hotline that was wasting taxpayer money.

855-224-0736: It's a hotline Prince George's County officials want you to know.

"The networks ethics and compliance hotline is a confidential third party option for reporting illegal and unethical activity,” says the hotline when you call it.

In 2010, When Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker took office, he inherited a troubled county.

"We are here on this morning to celebrate a new day in Prince George's County," said Baker when he assumed office in December of 2010.

Its previous executive and his wife were under investigation on federal corruption charges. They would soon be convicted and sent to prison. Baker needed to regain the people's trust.

"We must provide an open, efficient and transparent government," added Baker during that same speech.

So, Baker created the Office of Ethics and Accountability which, in part, encourages anyone to report violations or government waste by calling the 855 hotline. Over the past few years, the hotline has taken dozens of reports - Some have led to investigations. But when the I-Team recently received a tip saying it wasn't working, we called and heard this from the operator...

"Thank you for calling the County of Prince George's, MD. Are you calling to file a report? Unfortunately, we no longer take reports at this number."

To find out why the hotline wasn't working, we went to Robin Shell, OEA's Executive Director who was unaware there was a problem.

"We knew the line was down when you informed us that it wasn't working correctly," admitted Shell. “We didn’t know [until you told us].”

And apparently, it hadn't been working for a while. According to county records, obtained by the I-Team, the last report received by the hotline was on February 5 - six months before we called. Even though the County was paying for the service - $5,300 this year.

"We're not happy with anyone not being able to contact us,” added Shell.

Shell admits the hotline was not being monitored and the lack of reports it generated was overlooked. But now, since 7 On Your Side brought this to their attention, Shell says her office will regularly check the hotline, to ensure it works.

“We don't want to pay money to a vendor that doesn't supply a service. We are looking at that vendor and making sure the line is operational and that's all we can do moving forward is to make sure it's always operational,” concluded Shell.

7 On Your Side repeatedly contacted the hotline vendor, NAVEX Global, for comment but never heard back. The county's Office of Law is investigating to evaluate the need for the hotline or try to get money back for the time it was not working.

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