PBC County Administrator: Commissioners have case to seek IG’s terminationby Jennifer Sorentrue | April 26th, 2013
Palm Beach County Administrator Bob Weisman said Friday that county commissioners have an “overwhelming case” to try to fire Inspector General Sheryl Steckler, citing her unsuccessful attempts to intervene in a lawsuit challenging required payments for her office.
In an email to commissioners, Weisman called Steckler’s push to intervene “an egregious error of judgment/abuse of authority” that “merits her termination.”
Weisman said that the inspector general’s office would have to be its own “separate taxing district” to give Steckler the independence “that some members of the community desire.”
Weisman has said Steckler’s push to intervene in the lawsuit filed against the county by 14 cities and towns was a waste of taxpayer money and only delayed a resolution in the case.
The cities are challenging required payments to fund Steckler’s office.
The county attorney’s office is representing Steckler, but Steckler had sought to have her office intervene and represent itself in the suit, rather than rely on the county administration, which has been critical of her.
The courts have repeatedly turned down her request.
Here is Weisman’s email to commissioners on Friday:
For the record and for the Board’s information, my comments regarding Inspector General Steckler are as follows:
1 – In my opinion, her multiple legal actions (original plus appeals) in seeking independent legal status through the cities’ IG funding challenge is an egregious error of judgment/abuse of authority and merits her termination. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) was created through a County ordinance adopted by the Board of County Commissioners (BCC). The OIG is legally equivalent to a County Department and Ms. Steckler is a contract employee of the BCC. While the BCC has made the OIG functionally independent to the extent allowed by law, the OIG does not have separate legal standing, something Ms. Steckler and her in-house counsel had been advised of by the County Attorney. She chose to ignore the County Attorney’s advice as to her legal status and filed a motion to intervene. It was necessary for the County Attorney to oppose Ms. Steckler’s attempt to intervene in the lawsuit to protect the legal rights and structure of the County on behalf of the public. Ultimately, the Inspector General should serve to protect the County and the public by assuring that applicable rules and laws are followed in the conduct of government. Her decision to ignore the guidance she received from the County Attorney as to her legal status is what I have referred to as a “legal power play”. I think this was an intentional decision to try to extend her independence beyond that which our Ordinance could legally provide and which the County Attorney has previously advised is limited by law. This has now been confirmed by the courts. As it has been said since 2009, only a separate taxing district would give the OIG the standing it thinks it has and that some members of the community desire. The County Attorney is to be complimented for the original accuracy of their representations to the Board and public on this issue and their successful defense of this critical principle.
2 – In addition, in my opinion, over the course of her service, there have been a variety of instances that she has not conducted her Office in accordance with the principles of the Association of Inspectors General or in accordance with her Office motto “Enhancing public trust in government”, which should be our mutual goal. I have documented these instances and am of the opinion that they are sufficient to justify termination of her services at the end of her current term.
Whenever the pending contract review of the IG, as provided by the Ordinance, is conducted by the Inspector General Committee (expanded Ethics Commission), I intend to make a case that Ms. Steckler’s services should be terminated at the end of her current term for the reasons specified above. I recognize the upset that this course of action may cause. I think it is vitally necessary that this be done in the interest of the future of County government and the public served. I well appreciate that I can have no expectations about the outcome, though I think the Board has overwhelming cause to initiate outright termination for #1. If you have any questions or comments, I welcome discussing this with each of you or in public Board forum.