In the first of the Sleeper Cell(s) series it was suggested that there are predispositions to over-development embedded in Boca Raton’s elected and appointed public officials.
Presented here is an analysis of this thesis concentrating on an appointed member of the prestigious Planning and Zoning Board and the Downtown Boca Raton Advisory Committee; to wit: Glenn E. Gromann.
Mr. Gromann is a prominent public figure often quoted as an authority for growth, density and development issues. He currently holds two influential seats on boards and committees here in Boca Raton. These are
1) Chairman, Downtown Boca Raton Advisory Committee (DBRAC); and
2) Member, Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z)
First appointed to the DBRAC in January, 2007. Mr. Gromann has served continually since. His current term is due to expire in January, 2016.
A public records request has produced 6 applications from Mr. Gromann submitted for appointment to this position. Most notable are the 2007 and 2012 filings, each containing resumes of 9 and 49 pages respectively. In all these documents, Mr. Gromann holds himself out as an Attorney at Law with 30+years of experience in real estate development. In 2012 he states that he is also a lobbyist with no indication as to whom he is lobbying for and what projects were potentially involved.
Mr. Gromann’s appointment to the P&Z Board was awarded in January, 2013. Public Records reveal that in his application of January, 2013, he again identifies himself as a land use attorney and developer with experience in planning and zoning matters. Of particular note in this application is that he no longer claims to be a lobbyist – again with no explanation.
In the attached cover letter to the 2013 application, Mr. Gromann incorporates by reference the resume(s) previously filed with the city. No additions or deletions were offered to update these resumes and apparently there is no due diligence performed by the City Council on the content of such an application or the character of the applicant.
At the time of this appointment, Mayor Haynie, Former Mayor Whelchel and former CRA Chair Constance Scott all were quoted in the newspapers as holding Mr. Gromann out to be the best thing since sliced bread…..Really?
Three requests have been made in the last 30 days by me to City Hall for an audience with the Mayor and the City Attorney to comment for this article….to date, none have been responded to….
So why no responses…. Let’s take a closer look…..
Item 1 researched is Mr. Gromann’s claim to be an Attorney at Law. A review of the documents and a look at his website reflects his claim to be a member in 7 state Bar Associations (N.Y., N.J., Tx., Mi., Mo., Ha, and D.C.). Conspicuously missing is the State of Florida. Research as of February, 2015 reflects that he is administratively ineligible to practice law in New Jersey and the Texas Bar indicates he is not eligible to practice in that state.
Although Boca Raton’s public records are ambiguous as to Mr. Gromann’s status in this state, further review reflects references by him for having status with the Florida Bar as an “Authorized House Counsel” pursuant to Florida Bar Rule 17.1 et al. This rule is an extensive exercise requiring the out of state attorney applicant to provide significant documentation on a yearly basis to the Florida Bar and await an approval process by the Florida Supreme Court.
As of February, 2015, per the Clerk of the Florida Supreme Court’s listing, Mr. Gromann is not listed as an Authorized House Counsel. Furthermore, the Florida Bar has no history of his ever applying for such status. Therefore, Mr. Gromann is not authorized to render legal advice in this state. Any assertion to the contrary is a misrepresentation of a Florida Bar status or, more appropriately, lack thereof.
Contained within the January, 2012 resume is his involvement in extensive real estate projects and stating his role as “special counsel” to developers in “construction commercial/development/residential real estate transactions exceeding $6 billion dollars.”
Of note is that this resume is on Seawood Builders stationary, identifying him as “Glenn E. Gromann, Esq., Executive Vice President/General Counsel” (note, this is the resume where he also claims to be a lobbyist).
Newspaper and web articles report his involvement in development plans to invest over 1 billion dollars in and around the Town Center area of Boca Raton. No indication is given as to who are the investors and/or participants in these projects or their current development status rendering these claims difficult to determine if conflict exists on the part of Mr. Gromann.
A January 2013 Sun-Sentinel article raised the potential conflict of interest question by the appointment of a developer and land use attorney to the quasi-judicial P&Z board. In this article, Mr. Gromann claimed that he does not, currently, own any property or represent anyone who might soon have projects before the P&Z Board. He is further quoted as stating “I currently do the same things other P&Z board members do…” A curious statement at best considering all the claimed development interests identified. No proof has been offered by Mr. Gromann nor sought by the administration to support these assertions nor any explanation presented as to the status of the projects he previously claimed.
A cursory Google search reveals other development activity in the relevant time frame exampled by a November 2013 sale/purchase and finance deal for a parcel of land in the Arvida Park of Commerce (APOC). Parcels in APOC have often been in front of the P&Z Board over the last few years in which Mr. Gromann voted in the affirmative. Furthermore in January, 2014 he announced plans to bring baseball to Boca including a proposed Tri-Rail station by the Boca Center area, a location close to his purported billion dollar investment strategy.
Certainly there is a need to identify with whom Mr. Gromann is doing business. By his own statement, he claims that the major accomplishment from 2009 to 2012 was his creating a $100 million development firm.
So what’s not included in the City’s public records…..
November 2009 – 2012…the same relevant time frame in which Mr. Gromann claims to have created a $100 million development firm, he and 10 others were the subject of a Federal Trade Commission complaint for alleged fraudulent business practices in the state of Ohio (see Federal Trade Commission vs. The Debt Advocacy Center et. al., Case # 1:09CV02712) resulting in, amongst other things, a settlement that permanently bans Mr. Gromann from selling any mortgage assistance relief services.
So what’s the big deal…
Appointed public figures in a serious quasi-judicial role on the Planning and Zoning Board should be free of controversy. Certainly not the case here. These appointees also should be free of conflict of interest, whether direct or indirect, and/or even the appearance of conflict.
The items uncovered and presented here raise serious concerns. Just the misrepresentation as to Authorized House Counsel status with the Florida Bar should be enough for the City Council and the City Attorney to take action. Couple that with the incredible extent of real estate projects he has claimed clearly heightens possible conflict, a concern worthy of inquiry.
There is no assurance that the items coming in front of the P&Z Board would not result in a direct or indirect benefit to Mr. Gromann and/or his business associates. Finally, the level of his developer related activities supports the assertion of a predisposition to development or, more appropriately, overdevelopment that he brings to the P&Z Board.
With all this said, you, the reader, may take your own judgment on whether Mr. Gromann is an appropriate choice to remain an appointed official in both these important fact finding and advisory roles. In roles which, often times, lead to policy determinations at the highest levels of our city government and the ultimate implementation of strategies at the administrative levels.
I, for one, have already done so….