Palm Beach County Attorney: We shouldn’t appeal loss on cities paying for Inspector General

 

Nieman
Nieman

Palm Beach County should not appeal to the Florida Supreme Court its setback in its Inspector General OIGlawsuit with area cities, County Attorney Denise Nieman told county commissioners Wednesday night.

“Just because an appeal will not be filed does not mean that this matter is closed,” Nieman said in the email. “Staff will be meeting in the near future to discuss a number of possibilities available for your consideration.”

In November 2010, voters approved creating the Office of Inspector General and requiring cities help pay for it. Fifteen cities sued, arguing the county could not force them to pay. The county won the first legal battle. But the cities appealed, and on Dec. 21, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled for the cities.

Nieman said she worried that, in an appeal, the Supreme Court could hand down “an unfavorable ruling that could have a negative statewide impact.” She said the county’s efforts “are better spent reviewing all options available to us in light of the (appellate) Court’s opinion, including, but not limited to, service contracts with the municipalities.”

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

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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Palm Beach County Inspector General: We had fewer calls last six months

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Carey

The Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General fielded 25 percent fewer calls in the six months ending Sept. 30 than in the same period before that, Inspector General John A. Carey told Thursday’s meeting of his governing committee.

“Those numbers show a true success for your office,” committee member Sarah Shullman told Carey. “You’re bringing the municipalities and county into compliance. We shouldn’t see an increase.”

In the budget year ending Sept. 30, Carey said in his update, his office found $5.7 million in questioned costs and $314,000 in potential cost savings. He said it made 14 referrals to law enforcement or the county or state commissions on ethics.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

 

 

Appeals Court hearing Inspector General suit

Palm Beach County Inspector Genera; John Carey
Palm Beach County Inspector General John Carey

At this hour, the Fourth District Court of Appeal is hearing oral arguments in a 2011 lawsuit by 14 cities who have argued it’s illegal for Palm Beach County to create the Office of Inspector General and force them to pay for it.

Click here to watch oral arguments live

With the cities not paying, the county has made up the difference, paying its share of about $1 million a year, plus what the cities should have been paying.

The amount the cities have been assessed since the Inspector General started in 2010, including what they were billed for the budget year that started Oct. 1, is up to $4.9 million, according to figures provided by the county’s budget office to The Palm Beach Post.

Of that, the cities have paid $303,461. Fourteen have paid nothing.

Even though a judge tossed the cities’ suit in March 2015, the cities appealed, and on Oct. 22, 2015,  the Florida League of Cities filed a “friend of the court” brief with the appeals court.

The county has said that, should the cities exhaust the appeal of their lawsuit, it intends to pursue arrears.

In 2010, following a rash of scandals that left the area with the unfortunate nickname “Corruption County,” voters in each of the county’s cities overwhelmingly approved creation of the office, which provides oversight to local governments covering 13,000 employees and $7.5 billion in combined budgets.

 

Palm Beach County Inspector General marks 2 years on job

Carey
Carey

OIGPalm Beach County Inspector General John Carey has marked his second anniversary with an open letter to “Palm Beach County Leaders” urging their cooperation.

In a letter dated July 29 but released to the press Wednesday, Carey, whose actual 2-year anniversary was in June, asked local elected officials and staff to:

  • Call him if they have questions or recommendations.
  • Let him know of any agencies that can benefit from a talk by him about local governments’ transparency and accountability responsibilities and the role of his office.
  • Attend the twice-a-year meetings of the Inspector General’s Committee, or watch them on County TV or online.