FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CBS4) – After a parade of elected officials in Broward County were arrested over the past few years on corruption-related charges, voters demanded better oversight of elected officials and government employees.
In November, voters approved the creation of an independent Office of Inspector General to uncover waste, fraud and corruption in county and city governments.
John Scott, a career prosecutor and former assistant legal counsel for the Miami-Dade County Office of Inspector General, was chosen to be Broward’s first-ever Inspector General.
Scott spoke with CBS 4 News about the expectations of the position, what he hopes to accomplish and how residents will play a vital role.
“The voters of Broward County spoke clearly last November,” Scott said. “They demanded sunshine in government. They demanded a fresh set of eyes on government in the county and in the municipalities.”
Scott said the inspector general’s office will oversee elected officials in Broward County, and each of the county’s 31 municipalities as well as all government employees. The office will also have authority over any company or individual who provides good or services to the county and cities.
The goal of the office: make sure taxpayer’s dollars are being spent appropriately.
“The taxpayers have asked for an independent set of eyes to watch that money, safeguard that money and we take that as an important responsibility,” Scott said. “That’s one of the things that we’re going to do.”
The Inspector General will have subpoena power, audit power and the ability to begin an investigation on his own. Scott said his office also hopes to receive tips and complaints from Broward County residents.
The IG’s Office has a website, www.browardig.org, and a tip line: 954-357-TIPS.
Scott has spent the majority of his career uncovering corruption. On the wall of his office is a courtroom sketch from his days as a federal prosecutor. He spent a large part of his nearly two decades with the U.S. Department of Justice in its’ Public Integrity Section, prosecuting corrupt public officials across the country.
Scott acknowledged that he is aware of Broward’s history, but said he will not jump to any conclusions.
“We can only hope that a new day will arise here and we do know that we’re going to do our very best to be a part of it,” Scott said.
He believes the Office of the Inspector General will make a difference in Broward County.
“We’ve been given the trust by the residents of Broward County,” Scott said. “Part of our mission is to continue to earn that trust every day.”
Armed with a $1.85 million budget for 16 employees; Scott, who will earn a salary of $165,000, said he is assembling a team of experts, including a former top FBI agent, to oversee the function of government in Broward. Whether that is enough resources, remains to be seen.
“If it turns out that we need more people and we can demonstrate that need, we’ll ask for more people,” Scott said.
He said the work has already begun.
“I don’t want to speak to open investigations,” he said. “I will say that we’re already receiving complaints.”
Scott said he’s met with county government officials and leaders from a number of cities and said he’s been welcomed with open arms. However, he said his role is to be an independent investigator of county and city governments.
“I don’t expect to be everybody’s best friend,” Scott said. “I suspect that if I am, we’re not doing the job properly.”