Town-Crier Letter to the Editor on IG

This appeared on 11/27/09 in the Wellington Town Crier.  The author, Jess Santamaria, is a Palm Beach County Commissioner.

Independent Inspector General A Must

During the past ten years, our quality of life in Palm Beach County has slowly but surely deteriorated from bad to worse while our taxes have increased way above inflation, all while crime, poverty, homelessness and unemployment have increased and there are fewer public services. The main reason for this has been the collusion between dishonest government officials and dishonest businessmen. This has been confirmed during the past three years when five elected officials (including three Palm Beach County commissioners) and three members of the business community have been found guilty of corruption and given jail sentences.

Early this year, our state attorney decided it was necessary to convene a grand jury to investigate the extent of corruption in Palm Beach County. This grand jury questioned numerous individuals with extensive knowledge on how business has been conducted in the recent past between county government and the business community. In conclusion, the 57-page report by the grand jury found many actual examples where government officials had been excessively generous to some businessmen and some property owners to the detriment of the general public and us taxpayers. The main recommendation of the grand jury to help solve this very serious problem is the establishment of a “truly independent” Office of Inspector General to oversee all county operations. The inspector general must be selected and appointed solely by an ethics commission, the majority of whom must be respected members of the judiciary (retired judges), together with the state attorney and public defender. The selection of the inspector general by this independent group must be final. No member of the Palm Beach County Commission should be involved in any shape or form in the “hiring, manner of operation, funding or dismissing” of the Inspector General.

Even if all current Palm Beach County commissioners are 100-percent honest, no one can guarantee that in four, five or ten years, another Tony Masilotti, Mary McCarty and/or Warren Newell-type candidate isn’t again elected as a Palm Beach County commissioner, or worse yet, another Bernie Madoff or Scott Rothstein-type person does business with Palm Beach County. This is why no commissioner should ever have anything to do with the Office of Inspector General, for the benefit of all our children and grandchildren who will make Palm Beach County their future home. This is the most important issue today in our efforts to reduce corruption and waste, improve government efficiency and eventually reduce our taxes.

If you agree with the above, you owe it to yourself, your children and all law-abiding residents of Palm Beach County to express yourself by attending the Palm Beach County Commission meeting where the inspector general issue will be discussed on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at the government center (301 N. Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach). The commission chambers are on the sixth floor, and this topic will be discussed starting promptly at 10 a.m. Be there and tell all commissioners you want a 100-percent independent Office of Inspector General.

Jess Santamaria, County Commissioner

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