Appeals court rules cities don’t have to pay for IG

The 4th District Court of Appeal has ruled that area cities don’t have to contribute to an inspector general program established by Palm Beach County after voters approved a referendum calling for such a program.

That referendum was approved in November 2010 by a majority of voters in the county and by a majority in each of the county’s municipalities.

But after the county created the Office of Inspector General in 2011 – and required cities to help pay for it – 15 cities sued, arguing the county could not force them to pay for the program.

The county won the first legal battle when a trial court ruled that funding the program was not a discretionary budgetary decision and that the county could compel municipal payment for it.

The cities appealed, and today the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled in their favor, setting the stage for the case to go to the Florida Supreme Court.

Asked if the county will take the case to the state Supreme Court, County Attorney Denise Nieman said: “We’re exploring our options.”

Inspector General John Carey said he’s “deeply disappointed” by the ruling.

“My disappointment is that we must continue to provide the OIG oversight to the County and all municipalities at approximately half staff,” he said.

West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio said the ruling reaffirms that cities have the right to determine how municipal funding is spent.

“It can not be imposed on us by the county,” she said.

Check with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com later today for more on this story.

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Appeals Court: Palm Beach County elections chief’s records charge was “reasonable”

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Bucher
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Trout

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher imposed a “reasonable”  fee on U.S. Congress write-in candidate W. Michael Trout, the 4th District Court of Appeal said in a ruling released Wednesday.

Trout, a failed write-in candidate in November’s re-election of U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, also had challenged Deutch as a write-in in 2014.

After the 2014 election, he submitted a public records request to inspect the official ballots associated with his congressional race “at the earliest reasonable time possible, including ballots deemed to be cast in [Trout’s] name, and those deemed by [the Supervisor’s] office to be invalidated,” the appeals court’s ruling says.

Bucher responded six days later, saying counting the 145,881 ballots in 211 precincts would take require her and three other staffers to do work beyond that for a usual records request. She said she’d have to charge Trout up to $189.21, which he had to submit in advance as a deposit.

Florida’s Sunshine Law says records custodians can charge only the hourly pay of the lowest-paid person qualified to fulfill a request. Bucher argued that it was reasonable for her, as head of the elections office, to supervise Trout’s inspection of the ballots — and to charge her hourly wage.

Trout refused to pay the deposit and sued in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, then appealed when the judge ruled against him.