City of Boca wakes up to new federal lawsuit…
For over a year now, this writer has argued that Boca Raton residents cannot receive relief from their political complaints inside City Hall….that only through outside intervention will the pervasive anti-resident atmosphere be uncovered and stopped.
To this end, some residents of the barrier island have filed complaints with Palm Beach County’s Inspector General, with the State of Florida’s Ethics commission, and with the Circuit Court of Palm Beach County. Most of these efforts have had little results while the elected and appointed officials of Boca Raton continue to act with impunity; to wit: as if they are above the law; above having to adhere to the legal obligations of their office to protect all our rights without preferential treatment to some.
Well that has just ended…..
Monday, February 8th, in the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, two aggrieved residents filed a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief for Damages with a Demand for Jury Trial, citing 28 U.S.C. 2201, 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 28 U.S.C. 1391. This case involves the alleged special treatment given by the City of Boca Raton to the Chabad of East Boca, Inc. with factual assertions dating back to 2007.
With this filing, the City of Boca Raton along with its elected and appointed officials over the last decade will be made to justify the many alleged unconstitutional actions outlined within the complaint. The residents are represented by Attorney Marci A. Hamilton, a Constitutional Law advocate focusing on, amongst other things, First Amendment arguments; to wit: Religion and the Law. A simple Wikipedia search provides an extensive overview of her credentials and experience in this area of federal litigation (see bio). Ms. Hamilton, a member of the Pennsylvania Bar, will be joined by local counsel Arthur Koski, Esq., whose office has been retained by the residents to prosecute this case to its fullest extent regardless of who is implicated and where the chips may fall.
The residents involved are determined to see this through until the violations of their constitutional rights are redressed. During the pendency of this action, the injunctive relief sought will halt any activity to build on the property located at 770 East Palmetto Park Rd.
Federal Court is a serious legal forum. The power of the federal judge is almost boundless. The process will be long and arduous; legal maneuvering will begin almost immediately but a detailed read of the 39 page complaint reveals very compelling legal arguments (see legal filing). The alleged unconstitutional actions date back to 2007 and continue to as recently as May, 2015.
Allegations of secret deals; of special treatment to the religious organization; of the manipulation of the zoning ordinance allowing for a ‘place of assembly’ to be included in the B-1 zoning category are argued to be in violation of the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution along with an alleged violation of the state of Florida Constitution. Amongst the allegations are a series of procedural manipulations orchestrated by City Manager Leif Ahnell alleged to have taken place with the full knowledge of some city staff, elected and appointed officials, the landowner and the religious organization.
Notice I have used the qualifier ‘alleged.’ These allegations will need to be developed through subpoena power; through discovery of evidence; through depositions of witnesses; and, all under the watchful eye of the federal court.
All this will take time and money. These residents are prepared to take all the time necessary to uncover the alleged ‘stench’ that is argued to be pervasive within City Hall. They also are committed to bear whatever financial burden necessary to bring this to fruition.
Their prime objective is to protect and restore Constitutional rights; it is a worthy principle, a fight needing to be fought. The belief that the City and its officials have given a religious organization special treatment that goes beyond those extended to others forms the legal argument. Principles are their main motivator and they have the apparent political will and financial ability to see this fight through.
Recently, members of the public have been heard to argue in Council Chambers that there is an unholy relationship between elected and appointed officials in Boca Raton and the developer community. Residents have been heard to use the phrases ‘conspiracy’ and ‘collusion’. This brought about a response from Deputy Mayor Robert Weinroth. His admonition was that these words are unfounded and should not be invoked. Well Mr. Deputy Mayor, we shall see what we shall see; subpoena power is a really scary thing. This writer has been heard to argue in chambers that only in an independent forum which allows for discovery and depositions under oath will the truth be uncovered. When subpoenaed and placed under oath, the proverbial ‘rats’ will quickly abandon the proverbial ‘ship’….
Congratulations to these brave residents….Let the chips fall where they may….
Al Zucaro, Publisher