This week, Palm Beach County Inspector General Sheryl Steckler announced that she will vacate her position when her contract expires in June. Steckler was the county’s first permanent inspector general, serving since 2010.
Since then, Steckler has been railed at, berated and fought by county staff and a number of elected officials. With any future inspector general candidates likely facing the same uphill battle, it’s important that the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics look for a candidate who is equally as tough, if not tougher.
Steckler was no stranger to controversy during her time in the position. Most notably, a lawsuit brought by several municipalities has tied up funding for her office, and a series of legal decisions left the office unable to defend itself.
With County Administrator Bob Weisman gunning to have her removed from her position, it’s not a surprise that Steckler has decided to bow out and find employment that will appreciate her talent.
Known for being tough but fair, Steckler jumped into the position of inspector general with gusto, building an office and taking the reins while fighting waves of opposition. She has worked without a full staff of employees and without the means necessary to truly work as a watchdog for Palm Beach County taxpayers.
When the Office of the Inspector General was created in 2009, it was amid controversy and the shameful shenanigans that sent several county commissioners to jail. Palm Beach County had been labeled “corruption county,” and the only way to shed that moniker and regain trust for good is with a fully funded watchdog working for the best interest of the taxpayers. Despite Steckler’s road bumps, she has been instrumental in helping local and county governments iron out their policies, as well as inform government officials about ethical behavior. Her job has not only been to sniff out corruption, but to stop it before it happens through education.
Though not everyone has been pleased with her performance, it’s important that the next inspector general is not chosen according to what elected officials feel will go most smoothly for them. We need someone in the position willing to challenge those officials to be more transparent and ethical, and to impress its importance on others. We cannot afford to allow a watchdog who is willing to let things slide, as it’s a slippery slope back into a decade of shame and corruption.