With the headache of the recent election recount behind them, the new members of the Wellington Village Council were sworn in this week, and they wasted no time in getting down to business, voting unanimously to remove the village from the lawsuit against Palm Beach County over funding for the Office of the Inspector General. We commend the council for showing that Wellington cares about good government and listening to the people.
The lawsuit, filed last November, included 15 municipalities who argued that they were being asked to “pay twice” for the inspector general and decided to throw a monkey wrench into what was starting to look like real progress in the effort to shed the “Corruption County” moniker.
When the Wellington council voted to join the lawsuit, we were disappointed, as were many residents, who thought the matter had been settled when they voted overwhelmingly to support the creation of the office. Vice Mayor Howard Coates, who did not support the original decision to join the suit and motioned to remove Wellington from the lawsuit at Tuesday’s council meeting, was correct when he said joining the lawsuit created a perception problem for the village.
Though proponents of the lawsuit are trying to convince voters that they are being taxed twice, Mayor Bob Margolis noted that funding the office costs each resident no more than the equivalent of two or three postage stamps — a pretty good deal for honest government.
Palm Beach County has a long way to go to change its image problem and renew public trust in government. The creation of the Office of the Inspector General was a necessary first step, but the continued resistance on the part of the 14 municipalities not only is preventing Inspector General Sheryl Steckler from doing her job; it’s adding to the perception that the elected officials behind the lawsuits have something to hide. We just hope that when it is finally settled, the inspector general’s office has enough resources to properly do its job. Going back to the old way of doing business stopped being an option after November 2010, when Palm Beach County voters said no to corruption and supported the Office of the Inspector General with a 72 percent majority.
Wellington council members did the right thing in voting to remove the village from the lawsuit and open it up to scrutiny from Steckler’s office. While it is unfortunate that the 14 remaining municipalities are continuing with the lawsuit, we’re thankful that no municipality in the western communities remains a party to the matter. We just wish that more municipalities would follow Wellington’s lead and end the lawsuit.