‘Good Governance’ took a major step forward yesterday afternoon in City Hall Chambers. The open dialogue on Mayor Haynie’s ethics question would never have taken place a year ago and it takes place now due in large part to the investigating reporting of the Palm Beach Post and the efforts of Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke.
What a difference in mood when a ‘resident friendly’ voice champions open, transparent and accountable government….REFRESHING….
Kodus is also given to Chairman Scott Singer for his effort to guide the conversation and come to some useful outcome. That outcome is still an open question but he framed the question(s) in a manner that may lead to a positive result.
But…and there is always a ‘but’….
Obfuscation was the word of the day. The City Attorney complicated the factual history, confused the issues with legalese, all the while saying she was merely advising on the law….Bull!
The dialogue raised more questions than answered. There still is an open question as to the relationship between the Mayor and the investor/developer. Now there is a new legal hoop…the ‘client/customer’…Who are these unnamed players….When you strip away the legal nonsense, they are all the same…a point that the City Attorney never made during the 2013 manipulation of language resulting in a meaningless opinion and would not make yesterday.
And as to the 2013 ethics opinion, although it concluded no conflict, it limited that statement with a qualifier…that if the applicant for a City Council action was the investor/developer, the Mayor would not be able to vote…Well, the Post uncovered 13 incidents where the applicant was the investor/developer. Incredible…
Councilman Weinroth most memorable comment is that after one and one/half hours of discussion, nothing was accomplished except to waste 90 minutes of the people’s time….Well, Councilman, ethics challenges are not a waste of time especially with someone who plays foot loose and fancy free with the concept of ethics.
One last troubling matter raised first by Member Jeremy Rodgers and then seemingly accepted by the body as a whole, is that this ethics challenge of the Mayor’s relationship with the Batmasians could and would be resolved at the County or State Ethics commissions if someone were to bring the issue forward and file a complaint….
This begs the question….Why should the burden fall on a resident to bring this forward…why does the Council not do it or for that matter, these 4 individuals who are residents first and elected representatives second….
In conclusion, I suggested yesterday that ‘perhaps nothing’ would be accomplished…
Besides moving the needle forward on what is and how does ‘Good Governance’ aspire to work, practically speaking the Council shirked its duty to the residents. ‘Bad Governance’ still prevails and will until there are more ‘resident friendly’ voices on the City Council.
Remember, YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE; LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD LOUDLY IN MARCH 2018. VOTE!
For the last week the Palm Beach Post has been publishing articles investigating the ‘secret financial ties’ between Boca’s Mayor Susan Haynie and Developer James Batmasian. For the last week Ms. Haynie has stated that the financial ties have been in the public eye for years and that the Post investigation is instigated by her ‘political opponent’, me….
She has said she looks forward to ending this controversy “in an open, transparent and public fashion”. Well mayor, be careful what you wish for, you are about to get it….
Let’s begin with the setting…
It will take place in City Hall Chambers at the Community Redevelopment Agency scheduled meeting for Monday, November 13th at 1:30 P.M…
Chairing the CRA meeting will be City Councilman Scott Singer, a declared candidate for the Mayor’s seat when Mayor Haynie vacates the seat either due to her running for County Commission District 4 or otherwise.
Others presiding over the meeting will be Deputy Mayor and CRA member Jeremy Rodgers who as Deputy Mayor would become acting Mayor for the period of time waiting for a special election when the Mayor vacates her seat before a March 2018 re-organization of the City Council. Rodgers is also up for re-election to his City Council seat in the March election. Certainly he has a political motivation in the outcome of today’s inquiry.
Also present will be CRA Member and City Council member Robert Weinroth. Besides being up for re-election for his current seat on the Council, Mr. Weinroth is rumored to be looking at higher office, perhaps the Mayor’s seat or, depending on the outcome of this ethical challenge to the Mayor, the District 4 County Commission seat.
Finally CRA Member and City Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke, perhaps the only one with no political stake in the outcome as she is not seeking higher office and her seat is not up for re-election until March 2020.
Of course, the Mayor will be there as a CRA member but not as the chair of the meeting. Also present will be the City Attorney and the City Manager, who are in the unenviable position of being material witnesses to the circumstances leading up to this extremely troubling and messy ethic matter.
The first question to be asked is how this ethic inquiry will proceed.
There is no precedent for statements or testimony received to be under oath and we all know that truth is a rare commodity with elected officials. There will be no independent fact finder or legal advisor to establish the meaningful methodology to conduct the inquiry. And, whether there are private attorney(s) representing the participants is yet to be seen.
Why would there be a need for private attorney(s)?
Well we do know that there are outside third party agencies looking at the facts and circumstances of this matter. Agencies with greater powers then the City Council including but not limited to issuing subpoenas and compelling testimony under oath. Agencies such as the State of Florida Ethic Commission and the Public Corruptions unit of the State Attorney’s office here in Palm Beach County…and…considering past Palm Beach County experiences, perhaps the U.S. Attorney’s office as was the case in West Palm Beach with City Commissioners Jim Exline and Ray Liberti.
What does the public think it knows so far?
The public know that a business relationship existed between the Mayor and the Batmasian interests;
The public knows that money was exchanged within that relationship;
The public knows that this relationship has existed for some seven (7) years;
The public knows that the Mayor did not disclose this relationship on the financial reporting forms required of public officials.
The public knows this and a lot more from the reported remarks made by the Mayor over the last 10 days; from her own mouth, in her own words.
So what has the Mayor said?
Amongst other things she says that she had made full disclosure of the relationship in a 2011 recusal for a 7 – 11 location on Palmetto Park Road for Batmasian interests. She did recuse herself but according to reports and records, she recused herself without ever disclosing what the conflict was and with whom the conflict was with. She referred all inquiries to the City Attorney and no public explanation was ever provided. The public never knew!!!
Another defense offered by the Mayor is that she has an August 2013 ethics opinion from the Palm Beach Ethics Commission clearing her to vote on Batmasian related matters. True she has an opinion but that opinion does not clear her to vote on any specific item. That opinion simply opines that an unnamed elected official may vote on matters involving an unidentified developer, nothing more nothing less. It does not reference any specific vote for any specific development application. What the opinion establishes is that the Ethic Commission found there to be at least an ‘appearance of impropriety’ but that the elected official involved could vote on matters involving the developer as long as the developer was not the applicant in any matters that the elected official was required to vote on.
Well, what the public now knows is that all 12 Batmasian related items upon which the Mayor voted since the August 2013 opinion had Batmasian interests as the applicant. Clearly the Mayor’s actions are in opposition to the very ethics opinion that the she now holds up as her prime line of defense. Moreover, the method used to obtain this spurious opinion was through collusion, misinformation and manipulation between the City Attorney and the legal counsel for the Ethics Commission.
The City Attorney’s actions are highly irregular and most likely beyond the scope of her representation for her client, the City of Boca Raton. Earlier I used the term ‘material witness’ for the City Attorney and City Manager. Other ‘material witnesses’ are the Deputy City manager, Junior attorneys in the City Attorney’s office as well as members of the Ethic Commission’s staff all of whom were fully aware of the manipulative activities over an extended period of time to wordsmith a fact pattern designed to get a desired outcome ….Unbelievable!
So what is the public to expect from Monday’s inquiry?
Perhaps nothing….but what should happen is that the City Attorney should be immediately dismissed from providing further legal advice to the City Council. She is incredibly conflicted.
The Mayor should certainly recuse herself from the discussion and from participating in any matters at the CRA or the City Council involving Batmasian interests.
If she does not, the body should move to ‘censure’ her under Robert’s Rules of Order pending the outcome of these investigations, favorable or unfavorable.
There is no doubt that all the facts need to be uncovered and measured against prevailing law. So far, most every comment the Mayor has made in the newspaper does not comport with the facts identified in the public record. The Mayor is represented by private counsel and would be well advised to consider carefully further statements made on the public record even if not under oath.
Monday will be telltale…It will show whether the City Council really wants to get this matter in the open and whether ‘good goverence’ is their prime objective or whether they want to ‘sweep’ the matter under the proverbial rug. If they chose the latter then personal political ambition is their sought after objective.
I, for one, cannot wait to see what road the four (4) City Council members take….It will define what kind of government we, in Boca Raton, can expect to have for the foreseeable future….
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