By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia voters could decide whether the watchdog office that ferrets out wrongdoing by city workers should become permanent in May.

The Inspector General’s Office investigates reports of unethical or even criminal activity by city workers or companies that do business with the city.

The current Inspector General is a former federal prosecutor, Amy Kurland, who says because it was created by Executive Order, right now any mayor could just eliminate the IG’s office with the stroke of a pen.

“Mayor Nutter has given us a great deal of independence, and that’s pretty much the reason for our success, but we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. A future mayor could eliminate the office, reduce the office [or] make it a political office. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid,” says Kurland.

She is hoping City Council will go along with a plan to make her office permanent. If council agrees by March, the question would be put to voters on the May primary ballot.

“The charter change would make the Inspector General’s Office a permanent part of government, insulated from any kind of political influence. The Inspector General would be appointed to a five-year term, and it wouldn’t be concurrent with the mayor. So that would guarantee some measure of independence, and a lack of political influence,” Kurland explains.

She says the Inspector General’s Office is a great use of taxpayer dollars, since the wrongdoing it has uncovered greatly exceeds the cost of running the office.

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