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‘Corruption County’ bill strengthens penalties for ethics violations

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 by Dara Kam

With Palm Beach “Corruption” County in mind, lawmakers are moving toward stiffening local ordinances combating ethics violations.

Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, is backing a bill that allow counties to increase the current penalties for violations of county ordinances imposing ethical standards and financial disclosure requirements from 60 days in jail to one year in jail and double the fine from $500 to $1,000 per occurance.

The Senate Community Affairs Committee signed off on Aronberg’s proposal (SB 1980) this afternoon with a 9-1 vote.

Aronberg sponsored the bill at the behest of the scandal-plagued Palm Beach County Commission, which recently established an ethics panel in the wake of a federal corruption probe that landed three former county commissioners in prison. Palm Beach County Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Boynton Beach, is the House bill (HB 1301) sponsor.

Aronberg said the measure, which would apply to all counties if it becomes law, puts teeth into local ordinances.

“Living in Palm Beach County, I’m well aware this has become a priority for the voters in my district,” Aronberg, who is running in a statewide Democratic primary for attorney general against Senate colleague Dan Gelber. “Hopefully, this will help remove our reputation as ‘Corruption County.’”

Retired Judge Edward Rodgers named to new ethics commission

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 by George Bennett

Rodgers

Rodgers

The Palm Beach County League of Cities today picked retired Circuit Judge and former Riviera Beach councilman Edward Rodgers to fill the seat set aside for a former elected official on the new county Ethics Commission.

Rodgers was one of eight former elected officials vying for the spot.

The five-member ethics panel was created by county commissioners last year in response to scandals that sent five local elected official to federal prison between 2006 and 2009. Each of the seats is to be filled by a different organization. In addition to the League of Cities’ choice of Rodgers, county police chiefs picked former federal prosecutor Bruce Reinhart for one seat and the president of Florida Atlantic University picked FAU ethics professor Robin Fiore for another.

The two remaining seats will be filled by the county chapter of the Florida Institute of CPAs and by a coalition of minority lawyer groups.

Koons to commission critics: “T.S.”

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 by George Bennett

Eliot

Eliot

“T.S.” was the buzz phrase during this morning’s Palm Beach County commission meeting. And commissioners weren’t dissecting The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock or other poems by T.S. Eliot.

During a discussion on ethics reform, Commissioner Jeff Koons said: “If people are going to make public comment on it, I wish, if they don’t like us intellectually or don’t like us emotionally, T.S., but we’ve done a good job of generating this….”

Koons

Koons

“You want to repeat that?” Commission Chairman Burt Aaronson asked.

“That’s a legal term,” Koons said.

Later, when members of the public commented on the proposed inspector general ordinance, Jason Shields said: “And to Commissioner Koons, remember, if you don’t like this, well, T.S.”

Commissioners move to shed “Corruption County” image at 10 a.m. today

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 by George Bennett

Former Commissioner Mary McCarty's booking photo

Former Commissioner Mary McCarty's booking photo

Palm Beach County Commissioners, who have seen three of their colleagues go to federal prison on corruption charges since 2006, will give preliminary consideration to a package of ethics reforms this morning at 10 a.m. at the county Governmental Center in West Palm Beach.

The reforms include a new ethics code, a five-member ethics commission and creation of a new inspector general’s office to investigate public officials and contracts. Much of the debate over the last few months has focused on how much of a role the corruption-besmirched commission should play in choosing and approving the inspector general.

After today’s preliminary vote, a final vote on the ethics reforms is scheduled for Dec. 15.

County corruption not just a white thing, says commish who wants more diverse ethics panel

Monday, November 30th, 2009 by George Bennett

Taylor

Taylor

So far the Palm Beach County elected officials going to the federal hoosegow have been white Baby Boomers. But as the county prepares to enact sweeping ethics reforms, County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor says she expects to see a more diverse group coming under scrutiny.

Read in this week’s Politics column about Taylor’s proposal for the county’s planned ethics commission.

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