Surprise, surprise, surprise…The men behind the ‘proverbial’ curtain!

For a little over a year now, the recent politics of Boca Raton have been influenced by the efforts of a few controlling men….

Unknown until now is the insidious relationships making up this political influence group.  Presented here is a story of this group; it’s operating structure; and, finally, the lobbyists and community leaders who, until now, have been behind the ‘proverbial’ curtain.

FORBOCA.ORG, Inc. (FORBOCA), a not-for-profit corporation, filed Articles of Incorporation with the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations in March, 2016.  Since then, FORBOCA may have been operating as a ‘political committee’ without registering as such with the Florida Division of Elections, a filing required by Florida Statute.

Florida Statutes define a ‘political committee’ as a combination of two or more individuals, or a person other than an individual, that, in an aggregate amount in excess of $500 during a single calendar year, accepts monies for the purpose of making contributions to any candidate, political committee, affiliated party committee or political party.  *

Not to be lawyerly here, but the definition of ‘person’ is required; to wit:

Florida Statute defines ‘person’ as an individual or a corporation….having collective capacity. **  FORBOCA meets this definition for purposes of election laws in the state of Florida.

[*F.S. 106.011(16)(a)(1)(a) , ** F.S. 106.011(14)]

HOW?  YOU MAY ASK….HERE’S HOW….

FORBOCA, since its inception, seems to have been accepting monies for the purpose of making contributions to political committees; political committees that have been active in the last two elections within the city of Boca Raton; to wit:

1) November 2016 election for the Boca Raton Question, a question on the use of public lands for recreational purposes (Wildflower), and

2) The March 2017 Boca Raton elections for Mayor and two City Council seats.

Since September 2016, FORBOCA has made donations totaling $191,750 in campaign contributions to political committees including a $64,500 contribution to Protecting Coastal Communities PAC and $127,000 in contributions to GoBoca PAC. Protecting Coastal Communities PAC was active in the November election to defeat the residents’ initiative for the Wildflower question.  GoBoca PAC was active in the Boca Raton municipal elections of March 2017.

FORBOCA has not filed as a political committee and has not revealed the names of the ‘behind the proverbial curtain’ contributors from whom these large sums of money have been received.

FORBOCA is not an on-going business concern.  It produces no product or service; it merely has a basic website; it has no employees and it engages in no community activities.  In essence, it exists on paper to act as a shill corporation for purposes of raising funds for political campaigns while avoiding the obligation to report from whom those funds have been received.

FORBOCA apparently does not solicit funds from the general public, nor does it solicit funds on its website. It is not registered with the Florida Department of Consumer Services office as an entity that solicits funds yet, as already stated, it has raised and donated almost $200,000 in contributions to political committees.

Who is behind this secretive ‘behind the proverbial curtain’ organization?

The original directors for FORBOCA were:

  1. Murray J. “Mike” Arts, a former Boca Raton City Councilman and the former 20+ years President of the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce was one of the original three people, who formed the corporation in March, 2016. He served as an officer until April 11, 2017.
  2. Albert “Al” Travasos, a former Boca Raton City Councilman and the former Chairperson of Boca Area Commerce PAC, Inc. and Boca Raton Area Commerce PAC CCE, served as an officer until March 30, 2017
  3. Mark Herron is a Tallahassee attorney with the law firm of Messer Caparella, P.A. where his practice focuses in large part on Florida Election Law. Attorney Herron is the ‘go to’ guy for creating the legal structures allowing organizations to influence elections and political questions throughout the state.  He has been involved with FORBOCA since its inception and currently remains a director of the corporation.  He is also involved with the Protecting Coastal Communities PAC and the GoBoca PAC, political committees which took a very active role in both the November ‘16 and March ‘17 Boca Raton elections, respectively. In the recent past, Attorney Herron has been retained by the city of Boca Raton as special defense counsel in matters regarding ethics complaints filed against City Councilman Robert Weinroth, Deputy City Manager George Brown and resident/airport board member Jack Fox.

During the months of March and April, 2017, two FORBOCA director positions have changed.

FORBOCA.ORG, Inc’s current directors are:

  1. Mark Herron, describe above.
  2. Mark Guzzetta, a lobbyist registered with Palm Beach County, has replaced Al Travasos. Mr. Guzzetta is listed with Palm Beach County as a lobbyist, whose clients include, but are not limited, to Lennar Homes, a competitor for the purchase of the Boca Raton Municipal Golf Course and the sale to the Beach and Park District of the Ocean Breeze Golf Course.  Guzzetta was also instrumental in the development of Palmetto Promenade, formerly the Archstone; to wit: the mammoth building project on the north side of Palmetto Park Rd., east of Mizner Park Blvd. and west of N.E. 5th Ave.  In 2012/13 he was influential in lobbying with the Mayor for the passage of what has now been dubbed ‘Haynie’s Law’; state legislation that prevents residents to use  any ‘initiative’ or ‘referendum’ challenge on development orders or comp plan changes approved by the City Council.  Up until recently, Mr. Guzzetta was also the treasurer of a predecessor political committee to the GoBoca PAC called GoBoca ECO.  GoBoca PAC is the political committee that conducted negative campaign messaging on T.V. and in your mailboxes during the Boca Raton municipal elections in March ’17.

And, finally, are you ready for this????

3. Michael Mullaugh is the new Chairperson of FORBOCA. He replaces Director Mike Arts. Mullaugh was recently (March ‘17) term limited out as the long-time Councilman and Deputy Mayor for the city of Boca Raton.  Mr. Mullaugh actively campaigned against the resident referendum for recreational usages on city owned Intracoastal Waterway lands (Wildflower) in November ‘16 and actively campaigned for candidates in the March ‘17 municipal election; some candidates endorsed by interests groups aligned with FORBOCA through the efforts of GoBoca, PAC.

BOCA RATON POLITICS…

I have recently been quoted in the newspapers for saying that Boca Raton politics is a blood sport.  I have believed for some time now that the Boca Raton government is insidious, non-transparent, and, for the most part, unaccountable.  The items reported here are indicative of these comments.

The original directors of FORBOCA are commensurate insiders who many believe to be the public ‘faces and names’ for other unknown people and interest groups.

The fact that FORBOCA has raised and contributed large sums of money to political committees without declaring itself to be a political committee and without declaring the sources of those contributions is reflective of Boca Raton politics and is highly questionable as to FORBOCA’s compliance with the elections laws of the state.

Mr. Guzzetta, the lobbyist involved here, is a hired gun who trades on the perception that he can influence elected officials and the assertion that he can deliver the necessary council votes on controversial items coming before the elected body.

Mr. Mullaugh, the former Deputy Mayor, has been on the City Council for years.  To only now become aware of his close relationship with these ‘insider’ political committees involved in advocating for non-resident friendly outcomes in the November ’16 and March ’17 elections is extremely tell-tale and is truly indicative of the manner in which politics seems to have been conducted in Boca Raton for some time.

Couple these insider actions with the recently discovered 10 year hidden business relationship between the Mayor and the largest private landowner/developer in Boca Raton and one has to wonder what more is happening behind the ‘proverbial’ curtain in what is beginning to feel like Corruption County 2.0.

Remember back to 2006, Palm Beach County was dubbed Corruption County… Three Palm Beach County Commissioners and two West Palm Beach City Commissioners went to prison….Not sure how some of the things that are happening here in Boca Raton are different than the things that had those five elected officials fall so far from grace….

Current City Council members take heed.

You are elected to represent the interests of the people.  You are on the front line to demand greater accountability and transparency.

You are either part of the solution or you are part of the problem.

You decide….

BocaWatch is continuing to research the source of FORBOCA’s contributions.

Once identified, their names will be published for all to see.

Stay tuned!!!

P.S.:  FORBOCA.ORG, Inc. recently filed a lawsuit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court arguing that the November ’16 citizen referendum victory should be set aside.  This court action has subsequently been withdrawn but, through its attorney, FORBOCA has indicated an intention to continue the effort to set aside the 67% to 33% victory preserving city owned Intracoastal Waterway land for recreational purposes (Wildflower vote).  To date, no such action has been served on the City Attorney’s office.  AZ