Over the last few years one can find numerous examples of local governments trying to conduct the people’s business in a less than transparent manner.
In Palm Beach County one need only remember back to 2009 and the then rampant corruption scandals in county government and in the city of West Palm Beach.
These specific incidents labeled us “Corruption County” and led to the creation of the Office of Inspector General; a grand jury finding and ultimately a ballot initiative. The ballot initiative resulted in over 70% of the voting public ratifying the need for oversight on our county and municipal governments.
Since then, some municipalities, including Boca Raton, have been funding, with taxpayer dollars, a legal fight in Palm Beach County Circuit Court to thwart the will of the people and have the court overrule the initiative results for the independent oversight by an Inspector General.
Well, that circuit court fight has come to an end.
On April 10, 2015, Judge Catherine Brunson denied the municipalities’ motion for rehearing of her ruling against the municipalities’ legal challenges.
In a complete smack down, Judge Brunson stated:
“The people are the municipalities, and the officials who represent the people may not undermine the electorate process because they disagree with the vote of the people.”
Unless municipalities appeal her ruling by May 11, 2015, the legal challenge is ended and all local government, county and city will be subject to this oversight. This is a good thing especially in light of what is being uncovered throughout governments, including but not limited to the City of Boca Raton.
Attached to this article are the following materials:
1) A complete list of the involved municipalities;
2) Editorial content of two advertisements funded by former County Commissioner Jess R. Santamaria titled “We the People Win” and “The Deception Continues”; and,
3) An article from the April 24 – April 30 Town-Crier newspaper reporting on the recent court victory.
The argument that there is a burden placed on the taxpayer and that the proportionate cost of the Inspector General results in a ‘double’ taxation is patently false. The grand jury recommendation identified the funding mechanism; to wit: a one-quarter of one percent surcharge on all government contracts for goods and services. This funding mechanism would have absolutely no impact on the taxpayer.
Last week, in response to an inquiry of the Council on the reason for delay with a particular item, City Manager Ahnell stated that many things may begin to take longer citing the Inspector General as the reason. No other reference was made nor explanation offered.
It is realized that government can take active lawsuits into deliberation outside of the public view for strategic reasons. That is not in question.
What is in question, however, relates to the demonstrated position by our city leaders to want the ability to operate without oversight. A tendency unequivocally realized by the residents and now by the Court.
Times, they are changing….this court ruling is a major victory for good governance.
There now are additional ways to challenge corrupt government and over development; to wit: The Florida Commission on Ethics, the Palm Beach County Circuit Court, the State Attorney’s Office on Public Corruption, and, now, the Office of Inspector General.
Kudos are extended to Commissioner Santamaria for his public service and dedication and for his generosity in putting both his reputation and treasure up to fight this fight.