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Palm Beach County, Florida

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Palm Beach County is one of 67 counties in Florida. West Palm Beach is the county seat.

  • Year county was organized: 1909
  • Square miles in county: 2,034

Palm Beach County's population as of 2010 was 1,320,134, making it the third most populous county in Florida.[1] It is one of 20 charter counties in the state. It became a charter county in 1985.[2] With a per capita personal income of $44,518 as of 2004, Palm Beach is also the state's wealthiest county.[3]

Evaluation of website

In 2011 Palm Beach County earned a Sunny Awards for having a perfect website transparency score.

Main article: Evaluation of Florida county websites

This website was most recently evaluated on an unknown date.

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Budget
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Meetings
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Elected Officials
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Administrative Officials P
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Permits, zoning
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Audits
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Contracts
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Lobbying P
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Public records
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Local taxes
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County websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process


The good

  • Budget
    • The most current budget is listed.
    • Budgets are archived for 10 years.[4]
  • Administrative Officials
    • Department heads are listed for each department.[5]
    • Contact information for administrative officials is provided including a mailing address, phone number, and department email. Individual e-mails are not available for county administration as they are all filtered through a public information e-mail account.
  • Elected Officials
    • Elected officials are listed with a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[6]
  • Meetings
    • Meeting minutes are archived for 10 years.[7]
    • Meeting agendas are archived for 7 years.[8]
    • A meeting calendar is available and names the times and locations of public meetings.[9]
    • Meeting video or podcasts are available.[10]
  • Audits
    • The most recent audit is posted.
    • Audits dating back to 2009 are available.[11]
  • Contracts
    • Bids and RFPs are posted online.
    • Approved contract statements are provided for vendors.[12]
  • Public Records
    • The public information officer is identified and maintained by the County Clerk's office. This person provides a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[13]
  • Taxes
    • Tax revenues are broken down by federal, state, and local funding in the budget.
    • Local taxes, like property taxes, are available online.
    • Residents are able to pay taxes online.[14]
  • Lobbying
    • The legislative affairs office posts legislative updates.[15]
    • The lobbying regulation page provides important information for new and registered lobbyists, a database for looking up currently registered lobbyists and an application for new lobbyist registration.[16]
  • Permits and zoning
    • Zoning ordinances are posted online.[17]
    • Permit applications can be downloaded on the site, along with information on how to apply for the permits.[18]

The bad

  • Lobbying
    • Does not disclose how much the county pays to lobbying associations or lobbyists.
  • Administrative Officials
    • Personalized emails are not provided for administrative officials.

Elected Officials

The Board of County Commissioners is composed of seven representatives who serve staggered four-year terms. The Board sets the legislation and policy for the county, authorizes expenditures, and serves as the Child Care Facilities Board, the Environmental Control Board, the Solid Waste Authority Governing Board and the Zoning Board.[19] Council members as of June 2011:[20]

During the first meeting of each month, except for January and August, citizens can address the Board directly during Matters by the Public.

The county administrator implements the board's policies while managing a $4 billion annual budget and approximately 6,000 employees spread over 30 departments. Currently serving as county commissioner is Robert Weisman.

Public employee salaries

Main article: Palm Beach County employee salaries

As of 2008, County commissioners earn $92,000 annually. The sheriff makes $163,000; the elections supervisor, $135,000; clerk, property appraiser and tax collector, $154,000.[21]

In March 2011, controversy erupted over Ethics Commission executive director Alan Johnson's 10 percent raise to $130,000 per year, though he had been on the job less than a year.[22]

Corruption

County commissioners

Three former Palm Beach County Commissioners served prison time for crimes committed in office:

  • Tony Masilotti
  • Warren Newell
  • Mary McCarty

Former Commissioners Tony Masilotti and Warren Newell served prison sentences on public corruption charges.[23] Newell's five year sentence was reduced to three years because he cooperated in the McCarty investigation.[23]

Former Commissioner Mary McCarty received a sentence of three and a half years in prison for honest services fraud with a fine of $100,000.[23][24] The judge decided not to sentence her to the maximum because her offense was less serious than the two other commissioners convicted of corruption.[23] McCarty plead guilty to mail and wire fraud conspiracy and admitted in her plea to misusing her position to personally enrich herself and associates through a series of municipal bond transactions and through her receipt of gifts and gratuities from entities and people doing business before the commission.[24][23] She failed to reveal her financial interests while advocating for numerous matters before the commission, and failed to file or filed incomplete or false disclosure reports to conceal her true financial interests from the public.[24]

Her husband, Lawrence McCarty, was sentenced to eight months in prison and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine in March.[24] He pleaded guilty in January to participating in, and not reporting, his wife’s crimes.[24][23]

Lobbying

Main article: Florida government sector lobbying

Palm Beach County has reported $1,040,000 spent on lobbying the federal government since 2000 (see table).

Reported lobbying expenditures, 2000-2010[25]
Year Amount spent on lobbying
2010 $114,000
2009 $140,000
2008 $120,000
2007 $120,000
2006 $120,000
2005 $120,000
2004 $120,000
2003 $120,000
2002 $100,000
2001 $80,000
2000 $80,000

Audits

For Palm Beach County, both the County and Clerk & Comptroller perform the internal audit. The County Auditor reports to the Audit Committee.[26] Audits completed by the Clerk & Comptroller are available on the Palm Beach County website.[27] However, audits completed by the county's Internal Auditor are not; more information about the Internal Auditor may be found on the County Internal Auditor's web site.

As of June 2009, Sharon R. Block, Esq. is the county's Clerk & Comptroller. Block, like all Palm Beach County Clerk & Comptrollers, was designated as the County Auditor by the Florida Constitution and affirmed by the Palm Beach County Charter. As the Clerk & Comptroller, Block is in charge of "all auditing functions." As accountant, she performs the pre-audit function and as the clerk, conducts the performance audit function. Since the Clerk & Comptroller is an elected countyofficer, she reports only to the public.[28]

The Internal Auditor is Joe Bergeron, designated by the Palm Beach County Charter. The county charter requires that the Internal Auditor to be either a certified public accountant or a certified internal auditor. The Internal Auditor reports to a seven person committee as of Feb. 15, 2005.[29]

Limiting public comment

In June 2011, the Ethics Commission announced that it may ban public discussions about ethics rulings and other closed-door hearings during public meetings. The Ethics Commission is concerned that the public could sway ethics rulings, which are supposed to be decided upon by the Ethics Code and evidence brought forward at hearings. The new rules would allow the Ethics Commission chairman "to limit public comment as necessary, based upon time, manner and decorum considerations."[30]

Access to public records

The Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller maintain records for the county.

External links

References

  1. U.S. Census Bureau
  2. Florida's charter counties
  3. Fun Florida Trivia
  4. Palm Beach County, Budgets, Accessed: Feb 17, 2013
  5. Palm Beach County, Staff Directory, Accessed: Feb 17, 2013
  6. Palm Beach County, Elected Officials, Accessed: Feb 17, 2013
  7. Palm Beach County, Meeting Minutes, Accessed: Feb 17, 2013
  8. Palm Beach County, Meeting Agendas, Accessed: Feb 17, 2013
  9. Palm Beach County, Meeting Schedule, Accessed: Feb 17, 2013
  10. Palm Beach County, Meeting Videos, Accessed: Feb 17, 2013
  11. Palm Beach County, Audits, Accessed: Feb 17, 2013
  12. Palm Beach County, Approve Contracts, Accessed: Feb 17, 2013
  13. Palm Beach COunty, Public Records, Accessed: Feb 17, 2013
  14. Palm Beach County Pay Taxes Online, Accessed: Feb 17, 2013
  15. Palm Beach County, Legislative Affairs, Accessed: Feb 17, 2013
  16. Palm Beach County, Lobbyist Regulation, Accessed: April 11, 2014
  17. Palm Beach County, Zoning, Accessed: Feb 17, 2013
  18. Palm Beach County, Building Permits, Accessed: Feb 17, 2013
  19. Board of County Commissioners
  20. http://www.pbcgov.com/countycommissioners/ Board of County Commissioners]
  21. Commissioners salaries
  22. [1]
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 "County commissioner sentenced to 42 months," June 4, 2009
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 South Florida Business Journal, "Former Commissioner McCarty sentenced to prison," June 4, 2009
  25. [2]
  26. PBC Clerk & Comptroller 5.30.07
  27. [3]
  28. Clerk and COmptroller as County Auditor, 12/5/06
  29. Clerk and COmptroller as County Auditor, 12/5/06
  30. Ethics Commission limiting public comment