Will The County’s New Inspector General Face The Same Fate?

Shortly after former Palm Beach County Inspector General Sheryl Steckler announced that she was leaving, we urged the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics, which serves as the selection committee for a new inspector general, to find a replacement equally as tough — someone committed to the vision of a Palm Beach County free from even the hint of corruption.

While we are sad to see Steckler leave, we are glad to find that new Palm Beach County Inspector General John Carey is off to a strong start. In a visit to Wellington last week, he went over his credentials: 30 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, 10 years in local law enforcement, deputy inspector general for the U.S. Marine Corps and most recently inspector general for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. “I’ve been in tough situations. I’ve been in combat — actual combat and in political combat in D.C., so I’m ready for the situation we have here,” he assured his audience.

Let’s hope so, because very little can prepare outsiders for the realities of the pay-to-play system that continues to lurk just beneath the surface of Palm Beach County politics.

Are things better than four years ago when the Office of the Inspector General was created? Absolutely! Are they where they need to be? Not by a long shot. One of the key reasons that things are better is because Steckler insisted, much to the chagrin of some, to shine the light wherever she could — uncovering bidding irregularities and issuing opinions detailing “best management practices” for bids, accounting, reports and more.

Often, opposition to Steckler’s work was couched in terms of a “personality conflict.” It wasn’t Steckler’s work or Steckler’s office that was the problem… it was Steckler herself. County Administrator Bob Weisman, for example, tried hard to hide his distaste for Steckler’s methods, but on several occasions could not contain himself. And he represents the entity that is paying the freight to fund the office, as opposed to the 14 municipalities who continue to fight the inspector general’s funding mechanism in court. Some on the Palm Beach County Commission even suggested that County Clerk & Comptroller Sharon Bock — who until Steckler’s arrival played the role of chief county commission foil — would do a better job rooting out corruption.

Well, congratulations, Steckler naysayers. You have gotten your wish. She has returned to Tallahassee from whence she came. There’s a new inspector in town. Are we ready to finally get down to the business of ridding Palm Beach County of its harmful “corruption county” moniker or are we in for another four years of shoot the messenger?