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An Open and Transparent dialogue fulfilling the trust of residents; a trust setting the moral compass of those elected officials for the betterment of those that elect the officials….All elected officials inherently must promise to be guided by that collective moral compass; to act with fairness and resolve to all concerned, for all concerned.
With the Mayor’s seat and City Council Seat A special elections now set, residents once again have the opportunity to speak; to set the direction for those privileged to have governing responsibility to fulfill the wishes and desires of those that have consented to be governed. That is the social compact; the social compact we, here in the United States, we here in Boca Raton, accept as our chosen form of representative government.
In looking at Boca Raton’s local government, one wonders if these basic principles are actually being realized.
Complacency has eroded these governing principles over time and, because of this complacency, those governed risk becoming liturgical until such time as change, major change, becomes necessary.
The events of the recent past seem to now demand such change!
The governed in Boca Raton have been awaken to an uncomfortable situation; a situation that has changed the character and temperament of this place they call home…..Residents now must take the opportunity to ask how this undesirable situation came about and what can be done about it…
Those that govern have been unresponsive to those that are governed. The original governing principles have become so familiar, so taken for granted that, like placing your hand in a pot of water on a stove, the water begins to boil and one may not realize how hot boiling water is until, perhaps, it is too late….
Well it is not too late!!!
The governing principles of Boca Raton are captured in the City Charter. The Boca Raton City Charter is an ancient document that has rarely been revisited for decades now. In the recent three year period some changes have actually occurred; minor changes covering topics like pay raises for the elected officials; filling vacancies on the City Council; and coming up this year, redefining requirements to qualify for the City Council. Important changes certainly, but rather surface level when asking the deeper question of how Boca Raton has arrived at this place in its history; a place full of mistrust, anxiety, and resentment. A place where the public trust has been breached almost to the point of no return. A place that is not envied by others or supportive of the Boca brand.
Perhaps it is time to go back to the beginning….
Convene a Charter Review Committee comprised of residents; residents in disciplines including but not limited to political science, government affairs, journalism, law, and academia to take this decades old Charter, measure it against today’s circumstances and bring, for public debate, meaningful suggested changes to address the public trust breaches of today and to prevent breaches of a similar nature in the future.
There are many deficiencies that have contributed to current day circumstances. The ethics challenges of elected officials overlooked by the City Attorney; the ineffective review process for the City Attorney and City Manager within these ethic challenges; the inability of the City Council to act independent of the administration, etc….
I could go on and on….but that is not my intent with this article. My intent here is to raise the public conscious and encourage the public debate.To that end, one major change eminently needed that would have avoided the current circumstance is the creation of an Internal Auditor position, a position that operates independent of the City Manager with the power to go behind any action of the City Manager and/or the City Attorney to review and report directly to the Mayor while working at the pleasure of the City Council.
By way of example, I have excerpted from the City of West Palm Beach their model for the Internal Auditor position. With this one addition, the entire public trust issue would have been identified and brought to the public debate years ago; avoiding entirely the current circumstances while providing an independent review of the City Attorney and City Manager’s knowledge at the time and their knowledge over time.
Sec. 4.05. – Internal auditor.
The city commission shall appoint a city officer with the title of internal auditor. The internal auditor shall conduct, or cause to be conducted, financial, compliance, and expanded scope audits following generally accepted government auditing standards. The internal auditor shall have access to all records and personnel.
The internal auditor shall be appointed by the city commission. Removal from office must be for cause by a majority vote of the entire membership of the city commission (three affirmative votes).
To ensure independence of the audit function and to coordinate internal audit work with the needs of the mayor and the city commission, an audit committee is hereby established. The audit committee is a management committee and not a public board, commission or committee as specified in Article III, Section 3.01(5) above. The audit committee shall be comprised of five (5) voting members; the mayor or designee, the president of the city commission and three (3) at-large members who shall be appointed by the city commission. The at-large members shall be city residents with expertise in auditing preferably internal or management auditing and at least two (2) of whom shall be a certified public accountant or a certified internal auditor; appointments shall be staggered for terms of three (3) years. The president of the commission shall be appointed as chairperson of the audit committee. The audit committee shall perform an evaluation of the internal auditor annually and present such to the city commission.
To reiterate, it is not the purpose with this article to identify the extent of how the City charter may be updated in order to address current and future governing principles. The purpose is simply to raise the issue for public debate; to identify techniques reflective of the moral compass demanded by the electorate; and, to foster public discussions that have been remarkably lacking over my ten years of observing Boca Raton politics.
Al Zucaro, Publisher