‘Looks’ like a duck, ‘walks’ like a duck, ‘smells’ like a duck, maybe it’s a ‘LOBBYIST’

According to the Palm Beach County lobbyist registry, political insider, Mark Guzzetta is registered as a lobbyist for the law firm of Gray Robinson, effective September 9, 2015.

Also per the County registry, two Gray-Robinson attorneys, Charlie Siemon and Wendy Larsen, are also registered as lobbyists for Crocker Partners, Inc., one of the four (4) development firms behind the proposed “Midtown Boca” project.

By way of background, Grey-Robinson and its predecessor firm, Siemon and Larson, is a leading law firm advising many Boca Raton land owners/developers on their development applications citywide as well as in the downtown.  Grey Robinson’s involvement in Boca Raton development expanding citywide density and, some argue, over-development, dates back decades.

Oddly enough, Mark Guzzetta, who has been a public face for the Midtown Boca project, is not listed as a lobbyist for the Midtown Boca project.  However, he has been known to attend public outreach sessions conducted by the Crocker organization with interested neighborhood groups.  He has also been seen at City Hall attending meeting on the third floor with administrators as well as elected officials for matters related to the Midtown Boca project.

What’s going on here?

Palm Beach County’s lobbyist registration ordinance (attached below) defines “lobbying” as “seeking to influence a decision through oral or written communication or an attempt to obtain the goodwill of any county commissioner, any member of a local municipal governing body, any mayor or chief executive officer that is not a member of a local municipal governing body, any advisory board member, or any employee with respect to the passage, defeat or modification of any item which may foreseeably be presented for consideration to the advisory board, the board of county commissioners, or the local municipal governing body lobbied as applicable.”

The ordinance defines “lobbyist” as “any person who is employed and receives payment, or who contracts for economic consideration, for the purpose of lobbying on behalf of a principal, and shall include an employee whose principal responsibility to the employer is overseeing the employer’s various relationships with government or representing the employer in its contacts with government.”

The question, therefore, is, just what is Mark Guzzetta’s relationship to the Midtown Boca project?  On whose behalf is Mark Guzzetta appearing; to wit: Grey-Robinson or an individual client(s) of Grey-Robinson?  Is he being paid for his services, and, if so, by whom?

These are compelling questions that our elected officials should be interested in having answered; compelling questions that the City Attorney should be dispatched to inquire about….

Nonetheless, if you look like a lobbyist, and act like a lobbyist, you should be registered as a lobbyist.

Under the County’s Lobbying Ordinance, failure to properly register as a lobbyist “shall be deemed a single violation, punishable by a fine of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) per day for each day an unregistered lobbyist engages in lobbying activity, in an amount not to exceed a total of two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500).”

Willful and knowing violations of this ordinance “shall be referred by the commission on ethics to the State Attorney for prosecution in the same manner as a first degree misdemeanor pursuant to Florida Statutes, Section 125.69.”

Mr. Guzzetta is also listed with Palm Beach County as a lobbyist for the law firm, Dunay Miskel and Backman, LLP effective September 27, 2016.  When asked, Attorney Bonnie Miskel, a named partner at the firm, stated that she was unaware that Mr. Guzzetta was a lobbyist for the firm.  Dunay Miskel and Backman, LLP are legal advisors for a number of development projects in Boca Raton.  Ms. Miskel proffered that perhaps Mr. Guzzetta is working with or has worked with one of the firm’s client.  If that were to be the case, an inquiry as to which client would be probing.  A determination of Mr. Guzzetta’s relationship with this firm or with one of its client is certainly in order.

Finally, Mr. Guzzetta lists himself as a lobbyist for Lennar Homes, LLC, effective October 01, 2016.  Lennar Homes LLC is one of three competitors for the purchase of the Boca Raton Municipal Golf Course.  Lennar Homes, LLC is also engaged in a negotiation for the sale of Ocean Breeze Golf Course to the Beach and Park District for the asking price of $24 million dollars; a price tag receiving a great deal of resistance from members of the taxpaying community.  At least in this instance, Mr. Guzzetta is listed as a lobbyist for the company and its efforts within the city of Boca Raton.

There are a lot of questions raised by how Mr. Guzzetta lists his lobbyist activities.  Boca Raton defers to the County for lobbyist registration.  That deferral does not mean that elected and/or appointed officials should neglect to demand transparency and accountability from individuals that presents themselves as a client’s representative for purposes of ‘influencing’ outcomes on ‘foreseeable’ items to be voted upon by the local government.

Based upon factual items found in the public record and factual items not found in the public record, it would appear that Mark Guzzetta, political influencer, has some explaining to do; actually he may have a lot of explaining to do…..

Boca Raton residents have a right to know who lurks behind the proverbial curtain; those political influencers, lobbyists, influencing our elected officials on many of the items that already have and will continue to change our cherished quality of life, a quality of life for which Boca Raton has been known.

Lobbyist Registration Ordinance

PUBLISHER’S COMMENT:

BocaWatch is in the process of researching the community and business ties of those political influencers/lobbyists who are intimately involved in Boca Raton politics and who exercise significant influence over our elected officials on ‘foreseeable’ items coming in front of the City Council and/or the CRA.

Today’s article is the first in what will be a monthly series. Highlighted above is Mark Guzzetta. Listed below are previous articles published in BocaWatch over the years demonstrating the political activities and involvements of Mr. Guzzetta.

These articles are as follows:

1) Boca Raton’s Political Influencers, April 24, 2017;

2) Why Developers are spending $377,700 to Privatize Our Green Space, November 3, 2016;

3) Let’s talk Local Politics…Things are moving Fast, August 23, 2015;

4) Game On!, August 17, 2015

Al Zucaro, Publisher