The Sun-Sentinel’s editorial this weekend made many critical comments regarding the current ethical crisis in Boca Raton. One specific application to Ordinance 5431 raises questions about the City Attorney’s role in the handling of ethics matters and her statement that withholding of names in conflict-of-interest situations is the city’s normal practice. Their editors correctly state that “…names matter…”. BocaWatch agrees! To that end, the first name that should be exposed is ‘who’ drafted this ordinance? If drafted by or at the direction of the City Attorney Diana Grub-Freiser there is cause for concern. More on the City Attorney later.
As for the ordinance, its prospective provisions for procedures when requesting advisory opinions capture some corrective measures addressed at the CRA discussion on November 13. However, the provision relating to the retention of outside attorneys in connection with ethic issues requires comment. Specifically, a six month prohibition does not address the, as yet, concerns and challenges with such retentions. For this an example is warranted and names matter; to wit: Tallahassee based Attorney Mark Herron.
Attorney Herron practices in the area of Ethics and Elections law, certainly an appropriate area of law concerning the current situation in Boca Raton. Attorney Herron seems to be the ‘go to’ outside counsel for City Attorney Grub-Freiser in the city’s ethics challenges in Tallahassee. Attorney Herron was the outside counsel retained by the City Attorney to successfully represent Councilman Weinroth, Deputy Mayor Brown and Airport Authority appointee Jack Fox last year at the State’s Ethics committee. However, Attorney Herron is the poster child for the failing of a 6 month retention provision in Ordinance 5431.
Why??? Because he has for years and is currently representing other interests in ethical challenges rising out of various matters related to Boca Raton. What are these interests…Mentioned already was the Weinroth/Brown/Fox matters. Attorney Herron is and has been for some time involved with the ForBoca.Org non-profit organization; ForBoca.Org officers include Herron, former Boca Raton Deputy Mayor Mike Mullaugh and lobbyist Mark Guzzetta. Attorney Herron also is involved with a Political Action Committee, GoBoca.Org, a PAC that took an active role in opposing the waterfront land/Wildflower issue in the November 2016 referendum. Currently there is a Florida Elections Commission complaint pending since April, 2017 challenging the fund raising activities undertaken by ForBoca.Org. GoBoca PAC also played an active role in the March, 2017 City Council elections. Attorney Heron is believed to be representing Mayor Haynie in her defense at the State Ethics Commission challenge stemming from her failure to disclose financial ties. Attorney Herron is also believed to be representing lobbyist Mark Guzzetta in a Palm Beach County Ethics Commission challenge regarding lobbyist registration issues for Mr. Guzzetta’s representation of clients in the city of Boca Raton.
Now you can see why Attorney Herron is the poster child for the retention/Ethics Outside Counsel provisions of Ordinance 5431. Six months simply is not enough time to assure compliance with the ordinance’s safeguards regarding a retained attorney’s participating in a political campaign, or the attorney having served as an officer or director of a “political committee” , or an “electioneering communications organization” relating to an issue/campaign in the city of Boca Raton. Attorney Herron has intimate involvement in many of these aspects including but not limited to ethics matters concerning the city of Boca Raton.
Back to Attorney Grub-Freiser…Her answers and attitude displayed at the November 13th CRA meeting was nothing short of insubordination and highly unbelievable. Her suggestion that she merely counsels on the law flies in the face of her demonstrated activities advocating on behalf of the Mayor in the 2013 ethics opinion. For this insubordination and since the City Attorney works at the pleasure of the City Council, the Council should immediately ask for the City Attorney’s resignation or, in the alternative, she should be terminated.
Al Zucaro, Publisher