Crist anti-corruption push comes on heels of local effort

By Chuck Weber - bio | email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - Corruption cases, including some in our area, prompt action from the Governor. Governor Charlie Crist announced, Wednesday in Tallahassee, he'll ask the state Supreme Court to authorize a statewide grand jury to investigate public corruption.

Crist's move comes after recent corruption arrests of officials in Broward County. Three former Palm Beach County commissioners Tony Masilotti, Warren Newell, and Mary McCarty are already in federal prison on corruption charges.

"It doesn't center around any one case at all," explained Charlie Crist. "Since I have been governor, unfortunately, I've had to remove over 30 people from public office. That's almost one a month. It's obvious to me that there's something wrong with the system."

Florida Atlantic University criminology professor Richard Mangan agreed. "I think the public is now starting to think automatically if you're an elected official, there's some type of impropriety."

Earlier this year, the State Attorney for Palm Beach County, Michael McAuliffe, convened his own grand jury to address corruption. County commissioners recently adopted many of the panel's recommendations, including establishing an Inspector General's office and ethics commission, and enacting a revamped ethics ordinance.

"In Palm Beach County, we've done a lot of this work," said McAuliffe. "I think, we worked hard to come up with forward looking, real reform. I'm happy to say that reform is going to be instituted this fall."

As for Governor Crist's effort, he said, the statewide prosecutor in the Attorney General's office will be the point man for the investigations. Crist also said the investigation would not be limited to any area of the state.