City of Boca wakes up to new federal lawsuit…
Gerald Gagliardi and Kathleen MacDougall vs City of Boca Raton Case: 9:16-cv-80195 – United States District Court Southern District of Florida.
For over a year now, this writer has argued that Boca Raton residents cannot receive relief from their political complaints inside City Hall….that only through outside intervention will the pervasive anti-resident atmosphere be uncovered and stopped.
To this end, some residents of the barrier island have filed complaints with Palm Beach County’s Inspector General, with the State of Florida’s Ethics commission, and with the Circuit Court of Palm Beach County. Most of these efforts have had little results while the elected and appointed officials of Boca Raton continue to act with impunity; to wit: as if they are above the law; above having to adhere to the legal obligations of their office to protect all our rights without preferential treatment to some.
Well that has just ended…..
Monday, February 8th, in the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, two aggrieved residents filed a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief for Damages with a Demand for Jury Trial, citing 28 U.S.C. 2201, 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 28 U.S.C. 1391. This case involves the alleged special treatment given by the City of Boca Raton to the Chabad of East Boca, Inc. with factual assertions dating back to 2007.
With this filing, the City of Boca Raton along with its elected and appointed officials over the last decade will be made to justify the many alleged unconstitutional actions outlined within the complaint. The residents are represented by Attorney Marci A. Hamilton, a Constitutional Law advocate focusing on, amongst other things, First Amendment arguments; to wit: Religion and the Law. A simple Wikipedia search provides an extensive overview of her credentials and experience in this area of federal litigation (see bio). Ms. Hamilton, a member of the Pennsylvania Bar, will be joined by local counsel Arthur Koski, Esq., whose office has been retained by the residents to prosecute this case to its fullest extent regardless of who is implicated and where the chips may fall.
The residents involved are determined to see this through until the violations of their constitutional rights are redressed. During the pendency of this action, the injunctive relief sought will halt any activity to build on the property located at 770 East Palmetto Park Rd.
Federal Court is a serious legal forum. The power of the federal judge is almost boundless. The process will be long and arduous; legal maneuvering will begin almost immediately but a detailed read of the 39 page complaint reveals very compelling legal arguments (see legal filing). The alleged unconstitutional actions date back to 2007 and continue to as recently as May, 2015.
Allegations of secret deals; of special treatment to the religious organization; of the manipulation of the zoning ordinance allowing for a ‘place of assembly’ to be included in the B-1 zoning category are argued to be in violation of the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution along with an alleged violation of the state of Florida Constitution. Amongst the allegations are a series of procedural manipulations orchestrated by City Manager Leif Ahnell alleged to have taken place with the full knowledge of some city staff, elected and appointed officials, the landowner and the religious organization.
Notice I have used the qualifier ‘alleged.’ These allegations will need to be developed through subpoena power; through discovery of evidence; through depositions of witnesses; and, all under the watchful eye of the federal court.
All this will take time and money. These residents are prepared to take all the time necessary to uncover the alleged ‘stench’ that is argued to be pervasive within City Hall. They also are committed to bear whatever financial burden necessary to bring this to fruition.
Their prime objective is to protect and restore Constitutional rights; it is a worthy principle, a fight needing to be fought. The belief that the City and its officials have given a religious organization special treatment that goes beyond those extended to others forms the legal argument. Principles are their main motivator and they have the apparent political will and financial ability to see this fight through.
Recently, members of the public have been heard to argue in Council Chambers that there is an unholy relationship between elected and appointed officials in Boca Raton and the developer community. Residents have been heard to use the phrases ‘conspiracy’ and ‘collusion’. This brought about a response from Deputy Mayor Robert Weinroth. His admonition was that these words are unfounded and should not be invoked. Well Mr. Deputy Mayor, we shall see what we shall see; subpoena power is a really scary thing. This writer has been heard to argue in chambers that only in an independent forum which allows for discovery and depositions under oath will the truth be uncovered. When subpoenaed and placed under oath, the proverbial ‘rats’ will quickly abandon the proverbial ‘ship’….
Congratulations to these brave residents….Let the chips fall where they may….
Al Zucaro, Publisher
Good to hear there are courageous citizens who are willing to litigate and to go beyond protest in defeating these outrageous municipal functionaries. Too often our politicians and bureaucrats shirk their duties as public servants and trustees to all the citizenry, not just special interests. I would not be surprised were the discovery process to reveal outright criminality. We sorely need to take our democracy back from the special interest panderers and hold those responsible for the abuse of the public trust by taking their property and freedom, just like they have done to their charges.
I am demanding an immediate public apology from those who sought to smear and vilify us because of our opposition to this project. This would include Kirschner who did so publicly on the evening of the city’s final vote, Gromann who said as much on a channel 5 news broadcast, Rabbi New who insinuated this on May 27th, as well as the various members of his t-shirt posse who did so over the course of the many fractious hearings that were held before the city council and P&Z. They did this without regard to how these allegations might damage our personal and business relationships. I want this apology to be clear and unequivocal, and I want it now. Thank you.
What makes this case even more interesting – take religion out of the whole issue. You allegedly still have city employees, city officials and city representatives working on behalf of a private entity to encourage, promote, defend and approve private enterprise activity/economic development without representing the public to which it owed a duty of loyalty and allegiance. That alone is a direct violation of the public’s trust.
You can say that this sort of activity goes on all the time with property developers which is the real heart of the contention with the public officials in Boca Raton. But in this case, you allegedly have the public servants working to promote the establishment/approval of a religious entity and it is on these grounds you can easily bring up the First Amendment violations.
I am surprised that the ACLU hasn’t offered to take up this case since they are so hip to throw out all religion in any context having to do with governmental support (i.e., any symbol of a particular religion on public property). This case could be a clear example of governmental interference to support/promote/encourage religion on a private property in violation of its public duty to represent all citizens in handling public decisions and matters.
Presented properly, this case has a real chance of the outcome being found for the Plaintiffs and perhaps, by carefully thought-out and posed disposition questions, also bringing to light the inter-workings of .the real estate development community’s incestuous relationship with public officials.
Nothing like a good potential conspiracy charge to bring out the individuals willing to turn in their fellow co-conspirators to earn immunity. Where are the Feds when you need them?
Get the architectural drawings of the various projects and match them to what is being built and you may get significant differences as to what is being built. Where is all the parking for the Archstone project promised . The people behind that building complex will have to stare at garbage bins. What happened to their property values and rights. Where are all the setbacks required??Who sent out those mailings vilifying Anthony Majhess(??) when he objected to the size of that complex.. He was railroaded out of city hall. I remember city employees smirking when citizens were asking questions about the variances being allowed at public meetings. We the people of Boca want controlled growth which is good but we don’t want disrespect when we ask questions and worst of all we don’t want to be mislead or worst lied to by city hall..Chabads are good but maybe not there. Citizens are asking questions and are being smeared as being antii semitic.by city hall and others. This is not right. As a thoughtful resident of Boca for 35 years myself and others welcome thoughtful growth but we are alarmed at what is going on. We should be glad that corporations want to invest millions in our city but city hall misleading us is wrong if they are . Still need to sort this out. The folks in city hall are good people but they could be making an error by not listening to citizen concerns or worse misleading us.
Steve Abrams would never tolerate as to what city hall is doing. We the people run Boca not special interests.
I sense a voter revolution brewing. Jack Mcwalter
This should be e very interesting indeed !!i
If these practices have been going on for years, why do voters keep putting them back into office? We complain about work elected have done but they keep being elected. What does that say about we the people who vote? Most voters don’t care until a problem hits their front door. They could care less about their neighbors. When voting they are concerned what they will receive and to hell with others problems.
There are 2 bocas east and west. People in the east care not about development of great looking buildings but traffic and where do people park.are their concerns. When these projects came up many asked about the conclusions of the traffic studies. City Hall stuffed the public. Working on it and will have a public meeting. They mislead us. They had no intention of giving us what is obvious. Go stand on the corner of Fed One and Palmato and look at all the buildings and tell yourself the obvious. This will be a nightmare in several months when all the buildings are complete. I am not sure that all the building is inherently bad for boca ,not happy, but I am concerned that city hall has decided that they know what is good for boca and the hell with public meetings. We will give the developers whatever they want. All the variances they want. When Anthony was railroaded out of city hall many of us felt bad but we waited to see the results and now they are in. Developers are bragging that they run boca since they control city hall.
And the chabad on Palmato. what with that. A huge building with a museum. It has maybe 15 parking spaces. Is city hall nuts. It belongs in a huge park say next to the library on Spanish River. There is something going on in city hall.
We should all be concerned. West boca could care less about what goes on . I sense a movement brewing.
I currently reside in Ecuador. I lived in Boca for 23 years. I want you to know I applaud your efforts from afar.
What the city said as quoted in the PB Post:
“The city’s defense of this frivolous suit will be an unnecessary cost to the residents of Boca Raton,” a city spokeswoman said.
What the city should have said:
“If any laws have been broken we will be relentless in our pursuit of anyone who is found to have done so and they will be punished. It’s important that as elected officials we maintain the trust of the voter”
Would these resident’s have objected as vehemently if a church had chosen to buy the site? JGP