Corruption County: McAuliffe urges school board, munis to join in ethics reformby George Bennett | October 28th, 2009
State Attorney Michael McAuliffe and Palm Beach County commissioners today urged the school board and local governments to put themselves under the scrutiny of a proposed corruption-fighting inspector general.
School board Chairman Bill Graham said the school board is “conceptually on board” but wants to examine details.
The discussion came as county commissioners, school board members, state lawmakers and municipal officials held a joint meeting.
With five elected officials jailed on federal charges since 2006, County Commissioner Burt Aaronson said local politicians will feel the wrath of voters if they don’t approve reforms.
“If anybody says ‘No, we don’t want to do it,’ your constituents are going to tell you you’d better do it because there’s another election coming up. And anybody that doesn’t want to join in possibly won’t be an elected official the next time around.”
A grand jury convened by McAuliffe this year recommended tougher ethics laws, an independent ethics commission and an inspector general.
County commissioners are expected to approve ethics changes next month covering themselves and county government employees, contractors and lobbyists.
Commissioners also plan to put a question on the November 2010 ballot asking voters to enshrine the changes in the county charter. The county charter doesn’t cover the school board, however, so McAuliffe and commissioners want the school board to voluntarily agree to be covered by the ethics changes.
McAuliffe endorsed the reforms drafted by Palm Beach County officials and said the school board and cities should also agree to them.
“I want to extend not only an invitation but a recommendation that you start engaging the process and plan to become a part of the ethics reform,” McAuliffe said.
Municipal governments may not have a choice if voters approve a countywide ethics referendum. Under a voter-approved county law, a city or town would be required to come under a county charter change if the majority of voters in that municipality vote for the change.