A statewide grand jury on public corruption is out with its’ first report on how to strengthen the state’s laws on public officials convicted of crimes.
The grand jury is recommending ways for state legislators to beef up criminal and civil laws against public corruption.
In Broward County, we’ve certainly seen our share of elected officials in handcuffs over the past few years . County Commissioners Josephus Eggelletion and Diana Wasserman-Rubin, School Board Member Beverly Gallagher and a host of elected officials from several Broward cities are accused of breaking the public’s trust through corrupt acts.
The grand jury — presided over by Broward County Chief Judge Victor Tobin — is calling for the state legislature to address the recommended changes in state laws with urgency in 2011.
The grand jury also writes, “Given the serious fiscal limitations at all levels of government, anti-corruption efforts must stop the theft and mismanagement of vital public funds. This mismanagement and theft penalizes taxpayers by driving up the cost of all government services.
“Therefore, we call for an immediate repeal of what can only be referred to as Florida’s Corruption Tax.”
Specifically, the grand jury recommends:
*Enhancing the punishment for offenses committed by elected officials who use their public position to facilitate their crimes
*Expanding the definition of public employees to include private employees contracted by government entities that perform government services
*Creating an independent State Office of Inspector General, responsible for hiring and firing agency Inspectors General
*Expanding the definition of criminal bid tampering to include bid-rigging schemes
The grand jury also reported that Florida leads the country in the number of federally convicted public officials from 1998-2007.
Since 2000, Florida’s three federal United States Attorney’s Office districts had more public corruption convictions than any other state’s combined district totals.