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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Transcript of video:
Ignorance is no excuse….
For over one year now, Susan Haynie has denied any unethical practices; denied any breach of the public trust in her secret financial ties with the largest commercial land owner in downtown Boca Raton.
In the last six months, there have been numerous stories written by reputable organizations uncovering facts that tend to make Ms. Haynie’s denial doubtful. However, many people, including the members of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and the City Council, appeared to be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
The argument to take no action was that Ms. Haynie was the subject of both county and state ethics commission complaints and those complaints would provide resolution for the alleged ‘breach’ of the public trust.
This non-action position by our elected officials has provided ‘political cover’ for Ms. Haynie and she has been acting like ‘business as usual’ for way too long a period of time now.
On April 16, 2018….that ‘political cover’ evaporated. The Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics entered into a negotiated settlement with Ms. Haynie where our Mayor admits to a violation of the ethics law and accepts the most severe penalty the County Commission on Ethics can impose.
The benefit of the doubt is no longer available….
Ms. Haynie accepted culpability for the ethics violation and agreed to the fine and public reprimand. She has now declared this to be the end of the underlying incident and states she is trustworthy to be elected to the County Commission seat D; a higher seat she seeks later this year.
Is this the end of the matter….not even maybe!!!
The County COE asserted the harshest penalty they could and, yes, the ethics inquiry is ended in PBC. However, the State of Florida Commission on Ethics is still investigating. Ms. Haynie’s ethical challenges are ongoing with an anticipated probable cause hearing in the near future.
The State COE has much more serious outcomes available to it. It can fine up to $10,000 per violation; it can recommend her removal from office to the Governor; it can refer the matter to the State Attorney for investigation and prosecution.
So, from Ms. Haynie’s point of view, this matter is far from over.
From the resident’s POV, the results to date are wholly unacceptable.
The hearing process employed by Ms. Haynie’s attorney, Tallahassee based Mark Herron, has been to avoid the evidentiary hearing and negotiate a settlement with the COE; a convenient outcome for all sides except the resident.
Why…the resident gets to know only a limited amount of admitted facts; but does not get to know the entirety of the circumstances…
This became evident in the County COE’s documentation that establishes in Count one, misuse of office, the activities may have been inadvertent and unintentional; a legal conclusion made without the benefit of a full blown hearing.
In Count two, failure to disclose conflict, the County COE found her to be in violation but, due to the lack of evidence, could not conclude whether her activity was intentional or unintentional. This inability is the exact point of negotiating a settlement rather than submit to an evidentiary hearing.
This strategy is most likely being employed at the State COE as well…
Hopefully the state COE will not accept a negotiated settlement and conduct the hearing where the facts can be presented and the residents can hear the extent of her unethical activities; her breach of the public trust. We will have to wait and see…
In the meantime, I refer you back to my commentary of November 27 2017, titled Not My Job, where it is pointed out to the other members of the CRA that the Community Redevelopment Act provides for legal process to conduct an evidentiary hearing of any CRA member who is deemed to have acted inappropriately with penalties if that action is sustained.
Deputy Mayor Scott Singer, then CRA Chair, refused to consider bringing this action forward and sat quiet allowing an unethical member to remain on the body taking votes that directly and/or indirectly affect outcomes of the very commercial land owner that is named in the ethics violations.
Then Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers also sat on his hands by not evoking the available tools in the City Charter to bring this matter to a head at the city council arguing that the COE actions would bring the appropriate closure…
Well Closure has arrived….
What action will the CRA/City Council take now???
What excuse will be argued for not taking a corrective action???
In the last election cycle, both Jeremy Rodgers and Scott Singer were politically aligned with Susan Haynie; each publically demonstrated their support for the other; each appeared at the other’s fundraisers and those of Armand Grossman, their supported candidate for City Council.
Rodgers even stood up at a recent Republican Executive Committee meeting and publically endorsed Susan Haynie for the county commission seat with Scott Singer standing on his right hand shoulder and Arman Grossman on his left.
No wonder they refused to move forward with an evidentiary hearing in Council chambers; a hearing that would provide Ms. Haynie with due process; with proper notice; and, with the statutory right to be heard and represented by counsel.
In the past 6 weeks, Ms. Haynie has been found to have violated ethics in two different matters. In each of these it was the result of a settlement and in each there was finding by the County COE that her actions were Inadvertent
Give me a break…
An elected official over the last 16 years claims she did not know taking $600 in tickets from a vendor doing business with the city and/or voting on matters that financially benefit a client of her private outside business are ethics concerns. Such excuse is pure folly…laughable….Ethics 101 addresses these blatant matters.
The benefit of the doubt is gone….non-existent any longer. The State COE’s action is pending with very serious outcomes possible; and the public still remains represented by an admitted ethics violator.
The time to act has long come and gone…but better late than never…
Ms. Haynie has only one path out of this quagmire…RESIGN!
Allow the residents the opportunity to replace her for the betterment of the political body.
Only time will tell what the other four elected officials choose to do….
But to do nothing is not acceptable especially in light of the Ms. Haynie’s admission and the broad language of the stipulated agreement and order.
The breach of public trust remains and will remain so long as Ms. Haynie is allowed to continue to participate in setting public policy for the residents in the city of Boca Raton