A few weeks ago, BocaWatch reported that the lawsuit brought by 14 municipalities arguing the legality of the county creating an Inspector General’s Office (IG) to investigate municipalities and force cities to contribute to the IG’s costs had come to an end. Boca Raton has actively supported this lawsuit and contributed taxpayer dollars for this extended legal wrangling.

What is still an open item, however, is to exhaust the appellate process but, once done, the municipalities may owe the county a collective amount of $3.7 million dollars. An amount the county seems determined to collect.

The History….

The IG’s office was created in 2010 in response to a rash of scandals resulting in the label of “Corruption County” and three county commissioners going to federal prison….

As reported in the Palm Beach Post earlier this week, the municipalities have argued that payment of these pro rata charges from the county to support the IG’s office would set a negative budgetary precedent, and, during the pendency of the lawsuit, the municipalities haven’t paid into the fund forcing the IG to operate on a bare bones basis, leaving many complaints of bad goverence unresolved.

Well, all that may be about to change….

On March 12th of this year, County Circuit Judge Catherine Brunson ended the lawsuit, ruling in favor of the county. She subsequently denied the municipalities’ request for a rehearing, an outcome that, on May 5th has been appealed to the 4th District Court of Appeals. The 4th District has yet to issue its ruling.

If the appeal is declined, the municipalities will owe the county varying amounts of money. Estimate run as high as $800,000 for West Palm Beach, the lead city in this litigation process followed by, you guessed it, our fair city, Boca Raton, at just over $575,000.

Of course, one of the unintended, or perhaps intended, consequences of joining into this suit, has been the crippling ability of the IG to review the activities of local governments like Boca Raton; a very convenient truth considering: Once fully funded on an annual basis, the IG’s office provides a useful tool for citizen groups to document their issues and have an outside third party agency investigate those complaints; an option now being recognized for its effectiveness to keep local government in line.

The IG is located at 100 Australian Avenue in West Palm Beach. Their toll free number is 877-283-7068.

With a mission statement “to provide independent and objective insight, oversight and foresight in promoting efficiency, effectiveness and integrity in government”, this office offers the opportunity to have local government actions audited and investigated while serving the interests of the citizens of Palm Beach County.

For those individuals and groups interested, the process is relatively simple. 1) document the issue(s) complained of thoroughly; 2) gather the supporting evidence and the enabling legislation, if any; 3) gather the recorded video of public discussions on the item; 4) clearly articulate the requested relief; and, 5) submit the package care of Mr. Jeff Himmel, Director of Investigations, P.O. Box 16568, West Palm Beach, Fl. 33416.

Once received, the complaint will be issued a control number and the IG will internally determine if it is a matter for their office to handle.

From there, one of three things will happen….1) the complaint will proceed forward for investigation; 2) it may be referred to other outside agencies; or, 3) it will be determined to be insufficient and closed.

Although all submittals are public records, viewing the file is limited until a final resolution is issued. At that time, all records, including the identity of the submitting party is available for review….No anonymous filings are investigated.

So, taxpayers, there is value in Boca Raton using taxpayer dollars to pay its fair share in support of this oversight agency….

After all, our city’s leadership seems to think it appropriate to use taxpayer dollars to resist the residents as demonstrated on more than one occasion….

Actions as in the way the City Council resisted the residents in the Archstone challenge, and, now, in providing, legal defense for individuals at the Florida Commission on Ethics in the airport matter, to mention just a few…

BocaWatch encourages citizen groups to consider using the IG’s office to counter the skewed disadvantages experienced within the City Hall processes.