Thursday, January 8, 2009

Another term limit foe indicted in Palm Beach

Now we know why holding on to her county commission seat was so important. It was announced today that Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty has been indicted and will plead guilty of accepting gifts to steer business to special interests -- including her husband's bond underwriting firm.

She told the Palm Beach Post she expects to serve "a significant period of incarceration."

In doing so, she will follow her former colleagues on the commission Warren Newell and Tony Masilotti, both of whom got 5-year federal prison terms last year.

Commissioners McCarty and Newell were the most active opponents of the successful 2002 referendum to limit the terms of Palm Beach County Commissioners to eight years in office starting in 2010. I was the campaign manager for the effort.

Newell spoke against the measure at public meetings and called a referendum organizer at home -- my father, George -- and pleaded that the campaign be halted.

McCarty went further. As chair of the Republican Party of Palm Beach County, she was the key reason the GOP did not endorse the referendum in spite of overwhelming support from the party's rank and file. McCarty actually instructed all the Republican Clubs around the county not to permit me to speak at their meetings and collect signed petitions. To their credit, most did anyway.

Naturally, the suspected corruption of the commissioners was an important impetus for the term limits effort. I recall that many of the petitioners who spent their evenings and weekends in parking lots across the county with clipboards were motivated by McCarty specifically. As I note here, one of the benefits of term limits is that they contribute to cleaner and more transparent government.

Sometimes the good guys win and justice is done. It is this experience that attracts so many to the term limits movement.