The Indian Trail Improvement District has not yet come under the jurisdiction of the Palm Beach County Office of the Inspector General, but the ITID Board of Supervisors on Wednesday invited Inspector General John Carey to come back for a discussion on that topic hearing a presentation on what the office does.
Palm Beach County, the county’s 39 municipalities, the Solid Waste Authority and the Children’s Services Council are under the inspector general’s watchful eyes.
The SWA and the Children’s Services Council both have interlocal agreements. The county and the municipalities came under jurisdiction by countywide referendum.
Carey, whose office has been operating at half its allotted strength due to budgetary restrictions, told board members that his presentation was not intended to recruit more organizations to watch over, because he already has his hands full.
“I know I’ve had some e-mails and conversations,” he said. “I know there has been some discussion about the district potentially having an interlocal agreement, and I think that’s part of the thought process. So, the first thing I want to say before I get into talking about my office, is this is not a commercial selling my office to you as far as an interlocal agreement. I’m speaking to you as citizens of Palm Beach County, already taxpayers, about what our office does and some of the benefits of our office.”
Carey added that at the end of his presentation, he would be happy to talk about the pros and cons of an interlocal agreement.
He said most people have no idea of what an inspector general does, and explained that the first inspectors general were appointed by General (not yet President) George Washington, who was having trouble getting honest, dependable information from the front lines. He authorized the U.S. inspectors general to go anywhere they wanted within the Continental Army, with the same authority Washington would have, and report back and make recommendations.
The inspector general concept remained in the military until the 1970s, when public outcry at the time over honesty in government prompted U.S. Sen. John Glenn, a retired military officer, to suggest that it be introduced into the federal government with the Inspector General Act of 1978.
“They set up inspectors general over major federal agencies,” Carey said, explaining that he was a federal inspector general until 2014, when he came to Palm Beach County to replace former Inspector General Sheryl Steckler, who did not renew her contract. “The federal IGs had special independence… They could go anywhere, do audits, investigations, reviews — anything they needed to.”
Palm Beach County enacted an ordinance creating the Office of the Inspector General in 2010 after several county commissioners, municipal elected officials and private contractors were convicted of corruption crimes.
“There was an uproar of the citizenry,” he said. “They had a grand jury that recommended three things: one, that the county have a code of ethics, as they do today; they have a Commission on Ethics; and they also have an Office of the Inspector General. That’s where my office came into existence.”
Carey said the inspector general is hired by the same people who sit on the Commission on Ethics, whose membership includes representatives of several county agencies and organizations.
“They do interviews, they decide they want to hire John Carey, they put together a four-year contract and send it up to the county commission, and I get a contract,” he said. “They cannot fire me unless I do something illegal or break the code of ethics. That gives me independence to serve the taxpayers of Palm Beach County.”
The office’s mission is to provide independent and objective insights, oversight and foresight on promoting integrity, efficiency and effectiveness in government, ultimately to enhance the public’s trust.
Carey said he understands that most people in government are honest and trying to do the best they can, and his office’s approach is to go alongside those people and try to make recommendations on how to make government better.
After some discussion, the board invited Carey back in September to discuss having ITID come under inspector general oversight. The cost to the district is estimated at about $8,000 a year, Carey said.