By Dan Moffett
With year-end holiday celebrations coming up, South Palm Beach residents won’t have to worry about government officials dipping into the town’s coffers and making merry to excess.
That’s because the Town Council has adopted a “community relations expenditure policy” that sets guidelines for how officials can spend money on food and beverages for public events. The measure passed unanimously, 4-0, on Nov. 19, with Councilwoman Stella Jordan absent due to illness.
The policy statement comes at the urging of the Palm Beach County Inspector General’s Office, which is trying to keep an eye out for inappropriate government spending. Under the policy, town officials and employees can use public money to buy food and beverages only for events that “enhance relationships and personal interactions” among residents, officers, staff, service providers and members of the community.
“There must be a public purpose,” said Town Attorney Brad Biggs, “and the inspector general is constantly looking out for public purpose.”
The policy states that “the Town Council is committed to maintaining the town’s welcoming ‘small town’ atmosphere,” so reasonable quantities of snacks and drinks are still going to be available at public gatherings and meetings.
In other business, council members:
• Unanimously approved the appointment of police Capt. Carl Webb as acting police chief, replacing Roger Crane, who held the position for nearly two decades before retiring in November.
“I love to see promotion from within,” said Vice Mayor Joseph Flagello. “Captain, now Chief, Webb has been with us for 25 years so I know that he’s going to do an amazing job. I know how seriously he takes the position, and I know he’s got some big shoes to fill. And I know that he’ll have no problem filling those shoes.”
Town Manager Rex Taylor, who appointed Webb, says the council has made no decisions about advertising for a permanent replacement. By town charter, council members must ratify Taylor’s appointments.
“It’s an honor for the opportunity to serve,” Webb said, “and I will do my best. My door is open. If you have a problem, come see me.”
• Unanimously approved a contract extension for Hy-Byrd Inc., the Lake Worth company that has handled the town’s building inspections for roughly the last 10 years. “It’s exactly the same contract,” Taylor said. “They’ve been providing good service.”
Flagello concurred: “When they came in, the quality of inspections in our town went way up.” Hy-Byrd also works for the towns of Briny Breezes, Manalapan and Palm Beach.
• Taylor reported that revenues from building permits were up again in October, year over year, and said the trend has been improving for some time. “Slowly, the economy is turning around” in the area, he said.