ATLANTA — Georgia’s first inspector general, a war hero appointed to his watchdog post with great fanfare, has quietly stepped down.

Retired Brig. Gen. James Sehorn was the first person to hold the post, created by Gov. Sonny Perdue after his election in 2002. He departed this spring after three years on the job. The governor’s office issued a press release in mid-April that noted Sehorn’s departure, but it did not say why he was leaving.

Elizabeth Pequeno Archer, a former public defender, has been named interim inspector general. Archer was Sehorn’s deputy from August 2003 to August 2005. Before that she was a senior trial attorney with the Fulton County Public Defender’s Office and an assistant public defender with the Third Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office in Lake City, Fla.

The inspector general post was created to ferret out waste, fraud and abuse in state government. But critics say the office — which cannot conduct criminal investigations or issue subpoenas — lacks the needed authority to follow through on its mandate.

Asked on Tuesday if her office needed additional powers, Archer said, “I wouldn’t turn them down.”

But Archer added that she was unaware of any investigations that were hobbled by the office’s lack of power.

“We’ve been able to get what we need.”

Archer said it was up to Perdue whether she would take over the office on a permanent basis.

Under Sehorn, the office issued 31 reports and closed 496 cases, according the inspector general’s web site. The office has an annual budget of about $1 million.

Among his notable investigations was one into the use of state aircraft by Perdue. He approved Perdue’s use of the air fleet for personal and political travel but was later overruled by state Attorney General Thurbert Baker. Sehorn also determined that former Gov. Roy Barnes — a Democrat who was defeated by Perdue in 2002 — paid more than the appraised value for land in Atlantic Station. Sehorn recommended that state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine repay the state for a car his agency bought during a moratorium on such purchases.

Sehorn, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general, spent five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Attempts to reach Sehorn were not immediately successful on Tuesday.

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On The Net:

Office of the State Inspector General: http://oig.georgia.gov/02/oig/

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