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Sheriff Rules Against Ethics Inspection

Sheriff Rules Against Ethics Inspection

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The Palm Beach Post via YellowBrix

December 30, 2009

PALM BEACH COUNTY – The public’s desire for an Office of Inspector General to seek out wrongdoing anywhere in Palm Beach County is encountering its first hurdle.

While Palm Beach County commissioners once opposed to the extra scrutiny did an abrupt reversal and approved strict reforms this month, other high officials just aren’t getting the message.

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has ruled against subjecting the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, which consumes about half of the county’s $1 billion operating budget, to the inspector general. It isn’t that Sheriff Bradshaw thinks the idea of scrutiny is bad. Rather, the sheriff said in an interview, he fears giving up his office’s constitutionally granted independence. Sheriff Bradshaw’s thinking goes like this: The state constitution goes out of its way to assure independence for sheriffs. They negotiate labor contracts without county commission intrusion. They can appeal county budget decisions to the governor. The county cannot pass ordinances to tell sheriffs what to do.

But if the sheriff embraces the inspector general’s office, which would mean signing an agreement with the county to accept the independent scrutiny the inspector general promises, Sheriff Bradshaw said he would be establishing a precedent to succumb to any county dictate in the future. “The first time I acquiesce to that, that sets the precedent that that can be done,” Sheriff Bradshaw said. “That’s the only sticking point here.”

Sheriff Bradshaw’s plea for independence sounds like a plea to be free from independent scrutiny. He points out that he already subjects his department to outside audits and an independent internal affairs office. But every agency has outside auditors and self-policing policies. That didn’t reduce the public’s zeal for ethics reform. After all, sheriffs are not above making mistakes or breaking the law, as the corruption imprisonment of former Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne shows.

No one wants to diminish the sheriff’s ability to enforce the law. But the public is demanding closer scrutiny of contracts that can lead to corruption everywhere and anywhere. That includes the sheriff’s office. Already, the school board is hesitating about ethics reform, as are other county agencies, such as the property appraiser’s office.

There’s worse precedent than the technical issue raised by Sheriff Bradshaw. If he refuses to voluntarily subject his agency to the inspector general, he sets the precedent that it’s OK for some agencies to escape scrutiny. And that’s not a precedent the public is willing to accept.

  • Anonymous-killer-whale-232189_1__max50


    over 4 years ago


    A bad scenario comes to mind: the spouse/kid/other relative of a county commissioner is arrested, said commissioner tries to influence a favorable outcome by exerting pressure through the Inspector General's office. This wouldn't be the first time this kind of thing has happened here in Florida.

  • Crumb_passin_thru_02_1__max50


    over 4 years ago


    Perhaps the sheriff is only looking for clarification so that it is spelled out as a narrow exception rather than precedent for something with a wider scope. Perhaps I'm reading too much into "That's the only sticking point here." It almost sounds like an opening for dialog than a complete shut out. Either way, if he can get that kind of stipulation, it would go a long way to reinforcing his independence.

  • Battering-ram-full_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I will stand by the Sheriff on this one, I am quite sure that his department and the state have some type of internal investigations unit already in place for the integrity of the department.

  • Aaa_max50


    over 4 years ago


    The Sheriff puts forth some good points , but he still has the use of one half billion dollars of taxpayers money. The people will never excuse inspection of the dispersal of this much cash.

  • Gas_mask_1_max50


    over 4 years ago


    May I just say that sometimes it's nice to be clinging to the lower end of the totem pole...

  • Hand_max50


    over 4 years ago


    When you ask tax payers for a half billion dollars, you can bet they want some controls and oversight. The Sheriff will lose this battle in the end and needs to see what he can negotiate now. He may be independent of the county,but he is completely dependent on the voters. If an opponent can make this an issue to the voters,he's gone.

  • Ba_old_glory_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I don't think the Sheriff is trying to escape anything. The Agency is already subject to outside audits. Why do we need someone to over scrutinize. Besides is there enough money in the budget to pay this guy? If Sheriff Bradshaw is only trying to look out for his deputies, cool. If not, and he's hiding something, it will come out eventually. I just think this is good looking out.

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