When elected officials screw up, who pays?

It seems everywhere we turn elected officials are making big mistakes that blow holes in government budgets. Reasons range from being unprepared for the complexities of the elected position – as in inept or over one’s head – to outright corruption such as shown by the recent sentencing of the former Mayor of Detroit to 28 years in prison for corruption, or Orange County’s former Sheriff’s 8 year sentence in federal prison for witness tampering.  Then there are the current reports of an on-going federal investigation of the Orange County Board of Supervisors for possible corruption, including a pay to play atmosphere.

Incompetence or corruption, take your pick. Or perhaps it is something in between these two levels of non-performance that produces an OOOPS – the periodic failure of computer system development projects comes to mind – such as the multi-million dollar County of Orange effort to develop a new property tax assessment system that is now headed for court – or the failure of the Obamacare computer system that is making headlines today and leading to speculation that that federal HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius may be forced to resign. How about the Orange County Fire Authority collecting inspection fees for years from businesses when no inspections were being performed? How about employee pension systems that were established by city, county and state elected officials who then failed to adequately fund them? Or the apparent billions of dollars that the stalemate in Washington is reported to have cost the economy, not to mention employees of government contractors who were laid off during the shutdown. Or the numerous government projects launched by government elected officials that wind up costing 2, 3, 4 or more times the original promised cost?

These mistakes cost big bucks. Who pays? Is it all the taxpayers who elected them, as well as those who did not? Or is it just the most direct victims, such as the businesses who paid for fire authority inspections or the public sector employees who planned their careers based upon the promises of the pension systems the elected officials made?

It seems we the people selected people for elected positions who then sometimes mess up, big time. Those mistakes sometimes cost a lot of money. But, come the next election we often re-elect these same people. Does that make us, the voters and taxpayers, responsible to pay for the cost of the mistakes? If not us, who?

  I think it is us, like it or not.

About Over But Not Out

A retired Orange County employee, and moderate Republican. The editor seriously does not know OBNO's identity as did not the former editor, but his point of view is obviously interesting and valued.