Wellington Chapter Features IG and Commissioner on Ethics
The July 2012 meeting of the Wellington Chapter of the Palm Beach County Tea Party was, as always, a very informative gathering and one that remains relevant to our mutual belief in fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. Given the latest developments of this highly charged political season and a monumental victory of Governor Scott Walker over special interests, this month’s meeting gave us an opportunity celebrate our members like Pam Wohlschlegel who were able to contribute to the effort and literally walk the streets of Wisconsin in support of what they consider to be morally right. Thanks to them and others like them, this battle has been won but the war is far from over. A continuous need for dedicated volunteers was loudly and clearly reiterated. As the result of a partnership with Americans For Prosperity, Kathy Salerno, a volunteer field coordinator for the State of Florida spoke briefly underscoring that phone banking is still one of the most effective tools in running a grass roots campaign. Kathy, provided a demonstration of the new phone banking system that has been implemented by her organization and put out a call for volunteers. This system is surprisingly easy to use and designed such that calls can be made in spare time from any phone. The evening highlights consisted of presentations by two guest speakers ; Alan Johnson, Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Ethics Commission and Sheryl G. Steckler, Inspector General for Palm Beach County. Both speakers delivered fact filled presentations covering the intricacies surrounding the roles played by both offices within PBC Government.
Director Johnson, a long time Wellington resident, a former Assistant State Attorney, and a life long public servant enthusiastically explained the mission of the Commissioner of Ethics (COE) as to “foster integrity in public services, promote the public’s trust and confidence in that service, and to prevent conflicts between private interests and public duties”. He went on to draw a contrast between the role of the COE and the Inspector General clarifying that the COE is basically a code enforcement office. The Commission is made up of five non political appointees. Commissioners are limited from making political donations or supporting partisan causes for the duration of their term of appointment. Supported by a half dozen regular staff members as well as volunteer advocates the Office has its hands full. It’s tasked with enforcement of the PBC Code of Ethics that is aimed at ensuring that governmental decisions are not based on personal gain. The Office also issues advisory opinions, processes complaints, and provides mandatory ethics training in support of all PBC as well as municipal employees. The Commission’s jurisdiction also includes all elected individuals except independent constitutional officers such as PBC Sheriff and the Property Appraiser among others. The Commission’s Website has been one of the most critical tools in meeting their mission. In 2011 the site has received over 200K visitors in search of services. Everyone is encouraged to visit the site for materials or information at palmbeachcountyethics.com
Director Johnson was promptly followed by an equally charismatic and passionate General Steckler. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) is a PBC chartered office with a broad jurisdiction covering all County and municipal entities with oversight responsibilities at the individual contractor as well as sub-contractor levels. As a contrast to the COE, the OIG is focused making the Government more efficient, accountable, and effective. It conducts audits and investigations aimed at detection and prevention of fraud, waste, mismanagement, and misconduct. The key strength of the Office is its independence which intended to promote public trust and confidence in government. As such the offices’ findings can not be altered. OIG creates and publishes both annual and semiannual reports which are available to the general public through its web site at pbcgov.com/oig/
As stated before, great meeting, thanks to all the tireless effort by our organizers such as Gina Rascati, one of the founding members of the Wellington Chapter. It seems that every month a new bar is set for these gatherings. Please make sure to visit palmbeachcountyteaparty.com to see what’s in store for our next meeting.