Palm Beach County’s government watchdog faces an online popularity test that could factor into whether she gets to keep her job.

Inspector General Sheryl Steckler’s four-year contract ends in 2014 and by the end of this year she is supposed to get notice about whether the county plans to make a change.

To help make that decision, a committee of county officials that reviews Steckler’s work has called for posting an online survey to gather public comment about her job performance.

“It’s important to provide the avenue for public comment,” said Patricia Archer, who serves on the review committee and the county Ethics Commission.

Some ethics reform advocates cautioned against the survey, saying it could turn political with the survey input getting skewed by those have been subject to Steckler’s scrutiny and want her to go.

There are a lot of forces that “don’t want to see the inspector general succeed,” said Fred Scheibl, of the Tea Party spinoff Palm Beach County Taxpayer Action Board.

Creation of the inspector general post was a key part of the ethics reform push that followed a string of local government corruption scandals that started in 2006.

Steckler is empowered to investigate fraud, waste and abuse among elected officials, public employees and those who do business with local government. She has a $3.7 million budget and 24 employees.

Steckler’s supporters say her watchdog work has helped restore public trust in local government, but critics contend her oversight efforts go too far and cost too much.

A coalition of 15 cities, including West Palm Beach and Boca Raton, filed a still-pending legal challenge to the county requiring the cities to help pay for the inspector general’s office.

The questions and format of the proposed survey remain in the works, but the concept of using it to evaluate Steckler’s performance is already raising questions.

Ethics Commissioner Ronald Harbison, who serves on the inspector general review committee, warned that Steckler’s critics could flood the survey “with negative feedback.”

Likewise, Ethics Commissioner Robin Fiore, who also serves on the inspector general review committee, said a “public opinion poll” should not factor into Steckler’s evaluation.

“She does not have the duty and responsibility to please the public,” Fiore said.

But a majority of the committee members said the survey could be helpful without becoming a determining factor in their review of Steckler.

“I just think we are over thinking this,” said State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who serves on the committee. “We are not going to use this to disband the inspector general’s office.”

Steckler is Palm Beach County’s first inspector general, hired in 2010. She is paid about $150,000 a year.

Please read the original article at the Sun-Sentinel website.