Critics: State needs independent investigators of state offices
“There are probably some reforms that could be made to ensure greater independence,” said Florida’s Inspector General Melinda Miguel.
Inspectors general answer directly to the heads of the agencies and Cabinet offices they are supposed to be investigating.
When critics demanded an investigation this month into Attorney General Pam Bondi’s firing of investigators in her office, Bondi turned to Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s inspector general, instead of her own.
“I am asking for an outside IG — an outside IG — to look at this and make recommendations to me, Bondi said on Aug. 2. “I am not second-guessing the [firing] decision …. But as with anything, I want to improve, I want to do what’s best.”
Not everyone was impressed. Damien Filer, spokesman for Progress Florida, said that with Bondi and Atwater being from the same party “and having the same ideology, and seemingly, the same political agenda,” the investigation hardly seems impartial.
Said Filer, whose group was first to call for a probe, “This is like trusting Exxon Mobil to tell us whether BP’s rig was leaking or not.”
State law provides little alternative, however.
Inspectors general, the state’s system of government watchdogs, answer directly to the heads of the agencies and Cabinet offices they are supposed to be investigating for corruption and misdeeds.
By law, the agency head or Cabinet officials are not supposed to “prevent or prohibit” investigations, but those officials can choose their inspectors generals, and fire them — even without cause.
So far, efforts by lawmakers from both parties to give inspectors general greater autonomy have failed.
Former state Sen. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat, is among those who pushed for reform. “I think the Legislature, regrettably, is fearful of a review process they cannot control.”
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