‘Corruption County’ is hardly a complementary moniker, but considering the shady politics of the past four years, it is easy to see why national press outlets have given Palm Beach County the title. On that note, I understand why the people of Palm Beach County are disgruntled. Read the Palm Beach Post’s ‘Palm Beach County politics’ history of corruption’ and you have all of the proof you need: Palm Beach County has been the victim of dubious politics.
Palm Beach voters now have an opportunity to reconstruct the corrupt political image of the county. By voting YES on the ethics reform referendum, the citizens of local cities will be able to place their respective cities under the authority of an inspector general and ethics commission. The charter amendment would be the permanent solution to the provisional response enacted after two West Palm Beach city commissioners and three Palm Beach County commissioners were incarcerated on charges of fraud, betraying the public’s trust and other ethical violations.
If the amendment passes, the county charter will be changed to include the creation of an inspector general and the ethics commission, but each city’s votes will be tallied individually to find out whether the cities themselves will be governed by the ordinances. Cities supporting the referendum will be subject to investigation of corruption by the ethics officials while cities that do not pass the amendment will continue operating within political gray area.
The Palm Beach County school district, sheriff’s office, clerk of the court, tax collector, elections supervisor and property appraiser will not be affected by the charter amendment, and taxes will not be hugely impacted if the proposal passes. According to the Palm Beach Post, “the work of the inspector general would be financed by a tax of one-quarter of one percent on contracts in participating cities” and “the county would cover the costs of the five-member ethics commission and its four-member staff”.
Voting YES on the ethics reform amendment will help to clear the political landscape of Palm Beach County of crooked politicians. The public has long-awaited a solution to Palm Beach corruption, and I believe that this proposal is a viable solution, but are there reasons that the amendment will not draw a majority of votes?
Critics of the plan are few, but those critiquing the ethics referendum have one main contention: the ethics board answers to no one. The independence of the inspector general and ethics commission is key to keeping it from falling into dishonest practice itself, but reporters foresee the possibility of an extreme uncontrollable force. These predictions are pure speculation and describe a worst-case scenario not a realistic analysis of how the system would work.
Even assuming the threat of an authoritarian inspector general, the potential benefits of the charter amendment make it difficult to organize against. The Palm Beach County political system has long been centered on payoffs and preferential treatment, and now is the time for the public to take action against corruption and voice their concern.
Palm Beach County election information is available on the Supervisor of Elections’ website. Early voting begins October 18, and the general election is November 2.
“Palm Beach County politics’ history of corruption”. Palm Beach Post.
“Palm Beach County, Florida- Supervisor of Elections”. PBC Elections.
Andy Reid, “Crowded ballot raises concerns about passage of Palm Beach County ethics reform referendum”. The Sun Sentinel.