By Steve Plunkett
Boca Raton will not send money to pay for the inspector general until a lawsuit by it and 13 other municipalities is resolved challenging how the office is funded.
The cities filed suit two years ago saying the county’s proposed method of funding the Inspector General’s Office — billing each municipality based on the dollar amount of contracts awarded — amounts to double taxation of their residents. They want the county to impose an “oversight fee” on contracts that the cities would collect and pass on.
City Council member Anthony Majhess proposed Boca Raton send interim cash as a good faith effort.
“We will be in integrity with the voters’ wishes, and we will be demonstrating that we do support the office of the inspector general and we’re not wishing to defund that office,” Majhess said.
Council member Constance Scott and Mayor Susan Whelchel said doing so could undermine the legal action.
“Historically, if we’re in litigation we don’t usually comment until after the lawsuit has been resolved,” Scott said.
Whelchel called it a political ploy to say a city council that does not pay for the inspector general must oppose the office’s work.
“This particular issue right now has to do with a lawsuit that’s in progress, and why do you want to throw anything else at it? I don’t get that. Why are we not just letting the lawsuit play out?” Whelchel said.
The case has a court date scheduled in January.
Council member Michael Mullaugh said he could have supported sending money if Majhess had proposed adding a fee to contracts but not if it meant sending city taxes to West Palm Beach.
Deputy Mayor Susan Haynie said she would not want to weaken the cities’ case.
“However, I have no issue if this council wants to make a motion … to send the county $100,000 and say, ‘We just want to show good faith effort that we support the inspector general and we would like to support it through this contribution,’ ” she said.
Her motion to adopt Majhess’ proposal failed 3-2, with Scott, Whelchel and Mullaugh against.
The county has billed Boca Raton more than $400,000 as its share of the inspector general’s costs, Haynie said.
Sheryl Steckler, the inspector general, notified the committee that oversees her office last month that she will not seek to renew her contract when it expires next June. Steckler, who was hired as part of Palm Beach County’s ethics reforms, moved to the county in 2010 but her husband and children stayed in Tallahassee.
She is paid $150,000 a year.