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Inspector general squashes fundraising raffles

Fundraising raffles conducted by local government employees have become a surprising casualty of Palm Beach County’s ethics reform push.

Palm Beach County Inspector General Sheryl Steckler on Nov. 20 issued a notice warning that raffles held by county and other municipal employees could be considered a violation of state law.

That kind of inspector general crackdown on inner-office raffles and 50/50 splits – used in the past to raise money for charitable groups and other good causes – wasn’t welcome news to County Administrator Robert Weisman.

“Such pathetic crap,” Weisman wrote in an email to county employees.

Because of Steckler’s concerns, Weisman called for a stop to future raffles, held in the past to raise money for the United Way and for the county’s wellness program.

Steckler cited Section 849.09 of Florida Statutes that declares it “unlawful for any person in this state to set up, promote, or conduct any lottery for money or for anything of value.”

That includes fundraisers that offer prizes awarded by chance and requiring an entry fee, according to Steckler.

State law does allow exceptions for some charitable organizations to conduct raffles, but that doesn’t include government employees raising money in the name of a charitable organization, according to Steckler.

A series of local government corruption scandals prompted a Palm Beach County ethics reform push that included hiring an inspector general to serve as fulltime government watchdog.

Steckler, hired in 2010, and her team of auditors and investigators are empowered to ferret out fraud, waste and abuse in local government.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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