Corruption interruptus


OUR OPINION: Abuse of the public trust has to stop

At the start of each year, the Editorial Board lays out its agenda for the next 12 months, the issues on which it will focus, and, it is hoped, bring about change for the better, change Floridians can actually see. This year’s no different, and over the next few days, the Board will home in on what needs to change for public trust to be restored.

If one picture is worth a thousand words, then the rogues’ gallery above of former South Florida officials tells an infuriatingly enduring story. The year 2013 looked like an extraordinary year, with three mayors in Miami-Dade County hauled off and indicted on an assortment of corruption charges, police officers themselves in handcuffs and, of course, absentee-ballot shenanigans playing a starring role in one candidate leaving the Miami mayor’s race and causing a major migraine for a member of Congress.

Unfortunately, a scan of the photos above reveals that 2013 was anything but extraordinary; rather, it was sickeningly common, with officials who initially earned the public’s trust and then abused it. South Floridians are tired of it.

Taking human integrity out of the equation — either you’re a crook or you’re not, no matter how many dollars, junkets or free roofing jobs are offered — what loopholes in public policy need to be closed? What behaviors are perfectly legal — even though they stink to high heaven?

For instance, “pay to play” is the name of the game, from the statehouse in Tallahassee to the village hall in the smallest of municipalities. Political contributions from deep-pocketed entities and industries can reap them a windfall in government business, divert oversight of how they conduct that business and keep their lawmaker friends in office.

Though there is a $3,000 limit on campaign contributions, the sky’s the limit when the money goes to a political action committee or to a political party. If someone can write a million-dollar check, who needs the nickels and dimes from ordinary work-a-day constituents? There is a reason so many Floridians can’t seem to get their elected officials’ attention.

This year, editorials will also highlight what’s working: One of the reasons local corruption gets caught is because South Florida has layers and layers of investigators, working for the state attorney’s office and the FBI among them, plus inspectors general and ethics commissions.

The Editorial Board will shine a spotlight on all of it.

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