I moved to the Village of Wellington eight years ago. While I have had many serious disagreements with some of the policy decisions of the Wellington Village Council, I have always been impressed by the integrity of those who have governed the village. I have also been favorably impressed by the efficiency of the village, most especially since current Village Manager Paul Schofield took office.
And so I was amazed when, almost immediately after assuming authority over the village, the Palm Beach County Office of the Inspector General began to question the village’s actions in the matter of the Patriot Memorial. I happen to have been very much against the village’s decision to establish its own 9/11 memorial but realized that it was a political decision, and I was in the minority. I was also very disappointed that the cost of the memorial grew greatly after initial cost estimates, but I never considered that there was fraud, waste or abuse involved.
The inspector general, however, was quick to assume that it was necessary to force the village to provide a wide range of public information (which was reasonably easy to obtain on the village web site, if one was interested). The IG’s decision was apparently based on a hastily sketched inquiry by Morley Alperstein based on little more than the Palm Beach Post’s articles on the matter. The IG’s decision to investigate resulted in a direct cost to the village taxpayers of around $9,000. The cost of the IG’s time and effort is unknown. (Even though the ordinance that established the IG office mandates that “The inspector general shall establish policies and procedures and monitor the costs of investigations undertaken…” When I queried about costs, they responded, “Monitoring the costs of an ongoing investigation is different than undertaking a full and final ‘accounting’ of those costs.” Whatever that means.)
The final result of the Patriot Memorial “review” was, as I fully expected, a finding of no wrongdoing of any sort. The IG’s office seems, however, to have included the total amount that the village spent for the Patriot Memorial in what it calls “return on investment” in its annual report.
If the Town-Crier will indulge me, I will expand on these matters in a follow-on letter. The IG’s “audit” of the village’s p-card spending seems even more premature — and possibly motivated by something other than a wish to protect taxpayers and citizens from unscrupulous elected officials.
Phil Sexton, Wellington