Voting. Photo: Shutterstock.com.

Broward County’s Charter Review Commission has tacked a few amendments onto the ballot this year, but what do they mean?

Here’s a look at two that will affect the legal sector.

The Broward County Charter was established in 1974 and approved by voters to serve as a written grant of authority or rights for the county. It’s Broward’s constitution, if you will.

The charter’s language can’t be changed without voter approval, so even the slightest edit requires a simple majority to go into effect.

This year, voters will decide when and how the Office of the Inspector General should conduct investigations. Broward’s Inspector General, John W. Scott, acts as an independent watchdog, responsible for investigating allegations of fraud, corruption, ethics violations, gross mismanagement and other alleged misconduct by local government officials.

Scott is Broward’s first and only inspector general, appointed by the independent Selection-Oversight Committee in April 2011, after voters in 2010 decided the post should be created. Now, it’s asking voters to alter its investigative power.

Broward County Office of the Inspector General’s Discretion to Commence An Investigation: “Shall the Broward County Charter be amended to give the Broward County Office of the Inspector General discretion, as opposed to a mandate, to commence an investigation if good cause exists that an entity or person over whom the inspector general has authority has engaged in misconduct or gross mismanagement?”

As it stands, the charter instructs the inspector general to conduct an investigation “if good cause exists.” Voting for this amendment would give the inspector general more room to investigate a person or a matter, allowing them to decide when a probe is or is not necessary.

According to the proposal packet submitted by Broward’s OIG, this amendment came about because “there exists some unnecessary confusion over whether the OIG must commence an investigation if it receives a signed complaint stating facts that amount to good cause.”

The OIG is also seeking a board reshuffle.

Composition of the Broward County Inspector General Selection-Oversight Committee: “Shall the Broward County Charter be amended to revise the composition of the Broward County Inspector General Selection-Oversight Committee by replacing the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, or his/her designee, with an appointee of the Broward County Bar Association?”

The General Oversight Committee acts as an independent check on the OIG. While the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida sits on the committee, a “yes” vote would replace them with a member of the Broward County Bar Association (BCBA).

Why? Because the U.S. Attorney has historically shown little interest in taking part. When the first committee was selected, it was responsible for selecting members but declined to do so. With a BCBA representative at the helm, there’ll likely be less red tape.

 

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