Susan Haynie: What Next? – A Breakdown by Al Zucaro

This article, originally published by Al Zucaro on BocaWatch.org, is preserved for historical purposes by Massive Impressions Online Marketing in Boca Raton.
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Editor’s Note:
4:20 pm Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie has been suspended by Florida Governor Rick Scott http://www.wpbf.com/article/boca-raton-mayor-suspended-by-gov-rick-scott/20088926


What’s next for Susan Haynie and the Mayor’s Seat?

Al Zucaro provides a glimpse into possible futures. Things are changing quickly, but this is what we know now, Friday the 27th at Noon. 

Mayor Susan Haynie was charged with 4 felonies and 3 misdemeanors by the State Attorney’s Public Corruption unit last week. The public’s most often heard demand, since these charges were filed, is for her ‘resignation’ from the office of Mayor. Her breach of the public trust uncovered over the last year is considered by many as unacceptable. It’s my opinion that her resignation is in the best interest of the city of Boca Raton. However, public opinion and public trust aren’t what’s going to spell out the course of events. There’s a lot of bureaucracy ahead of us still and people want to know what could happen. I’ll break it down for you.

Could the Political Fix be In – Haynie Back in the Mayor Seat???

As of this writing, Ms. Haynie has not resigned the position; has proclaimed her innocence; and has vowed to have her day in court.  She’s essentially saying we’ll all have to settle in for a long drawn-out painful period. Or will we?

A criminal matter of this type generally comes to conclusion in one of two ways:

  1. a trial with jury verdict, guilty or not-guilty; or,
  2. a negotiated plea bargain of some sort.

So far, in all her Commission on Ethics matters, Ms. Haynie has chosen to accept a negotiated settlement rather than proceed to a full blown evidentiary hearing. So the blusterous statement of her attorney in the newspapers about vindication in court may be just that, bluster. She might actually have to face the music earlier.  Let’s analyze….

Why does Ms. Haynie refuse to step down, to resign?

An easy answer…If she resigns, she is out of office, out of politics, immediately.
There is actually no obligation at this time for her to resign; criminal charges are not convictions. However, the Governor has the ability to ‘remove’ her from office; or, in the alternative, he has the ability to ‘suspend’ her instead.

  • If ‘removed’ from office, she is not able to return to her seat even if there are no convictions from these pending felony criminal charges.
  • Suspension allows for her to return if acquitted or if she reaches a negotiated plea with no conviction(s) of record.

As of this writing, the Governor has taken no action. Reports are that he has taken the situation under advisement and that he will be taking action soon.

Prediction:

The Governor will ‘suspend’ Ms. Haynie pending the outcome of the criminal matter.

editor’s note: Al Zucaro ^ was right. That’s what happened>>>

His action will come before the May 8th meeting where the City Council will consider moving forward with a ‘special election’ on the County’s August primary ballot.  The meeting on Monday, April 30th,  will explore this possibility.  If ‘suspension’ allows for a special election, Deputy Mayor Scott Singer will preside until the election, after which the winner will preside over the Council for the remainder of the Haynie term, March, 2020, or, possibly, sooner.

Possibly sooner? You bet…Here’s how:

Assuming that Ms. Haynie choses to negotiate instead of facing a jury trial, she may still avoid a ‘felony conviction.’

Susan Haynie is a first time offender. As a first time offender, she may be eligible to resolve this matter through a negotiated plea bargain.

This outcome is possible if the State Attorney agrees to a plea bargain where Haynie enters a plea of guilty; agrees to some sort of punishment, probably probation; and recommends that the presiding judge grant the status of ‘Withhold Adjudication’; a relief where the criminal activity is not carried forward on a person’s record as a conviction.

The State of Florida is the only jurisdiction in the United States including the Federal Government that has this extraordinary relief in such a criminal matter.

Here is where the ‘possibly sooner’ comment is relevant:

If the State Attorney would offer such an arrangement and the Mayor were to accept this outcome, arguably there would be no conviction and, hence, no reason for her to remain suspended; the charges would be resolved; and, under a Florida Supreme Court ruling, she would be immediately able to return to her seat as the Mayor.

So the elements that need to be in place are as follows:

  1. The Governor ‘suspends’ not ‘removes’ the Mayor from office;
  2. The State Attorney offers the plea deal described above; and
  3. The presiding Judge agrees to accept the negotiated deal.

Could all this actually happen in such high profile case with its powerful political cast?

Maybe, maybe not…but it is possible….

Here are the proverbial flies in the ointment:

  1. The Governor’s politics in his campaign to unseat Senator Bill Nelson;
  2. The State Attorney’s reputation as a protector of the citizen’s interest with public corruption being of high concern; and;
  3. The presiding Judge, who is not obligated to agree with the State’s recommendation, refuses to accept such a politically charged plea bargain.

Also, there would remain a question as to whether an actual admission of guilt to any or all of the felony charges would be enough to prevent her from returning to the Mayor’s seat; a fact pattern yet unresolved and ripe for legal challenge.

In law school you learn not to ‘what if’ a situation to death; you learn to plan argument around actual facts. With that in mind, I raise only one additional question…

Assuming there is a determination to schedule a special election, what if the plea bargain described with the outcome being ‘no conviction(s)’ is resolved before the August special election. Arguably, Ms. Haynie would contend that the special election is moot, an outcome that would be fuel on the political fire in the city of Boca Raton.

What a mess….
Mayor Haynie….
You proclaim your love for Boca Raton…
If that is true…
bring this to an end….
Resign!

Al Zucaro
Publisher – BocaWatch

2 Comments
  • Joanne W
    Posted at 21:46h, 30 April Reply

    At this afternoon’s informational meeting, the city attorney said that any of the following would count as a conviction:
    (1) guilty by trial
    (2) guilty plea
    (3) nolo contendre plea
    (4) withholding of adjudication
    (5) suspension of sentence

  • Bill Tuers
    Posted at 11:30h, 01 May Reply

    Is this the Mayor that a few short years ago stated in a newspaper interview that 20th Street (NW 20 Street) “certainly doesn’t look like Boca Raton.” ?

    Interesting comment to make as it can only come from a newcomer to Boca who basically see’s nothing other than the Mizner Park area. Why from a newcomer? Because anyone who has serious history here, say for example back to the 70’s and prior, is well aware that 20th Street looks very much the same as it always has, and guess what, its been in Boca forever!

    If Ms. Haynie gets her nose out of the stratosphere long enough to stay out of prison, and she takes the time to study a bit of Boca history, she may learn that Boca hasn’t always been “fancy” from one end to the other. Of course, a stint in prison may provide the opportunity to learn about Boca’s past as well.

    Oh well, I certainly don’t know if she’s guilty and I don’t pretend to know. Therefore, I refuse to badmouth her at this point in time. Lord knows many have been convicted in our court system only to be found innocent at a later point in time so for the moment I give her the benefit of the doubt. I do wish she bone up on her history of Boca Raton however. Hopefully, Boca Raton will never become a town consisting of nothing but expensive restaurants and nail and hair salons.

    After all, and this may sting Ms. Haynie, “regular” people need to live here as well.

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