Ethics panel begins probe of Boca Raton mayor’s potential conflict


The county ethics body that gave Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie the go-ahead in 2013 to vote on projects involving developer James Batmasian apparently has launched an investigation after a Palm Beach Post story detailed financial ties between Haynie and Batmasian.

Commission on Ethics Executive Director Mark Bannon says he is prevented by county rules from confirming whether such a probe is taking place. But one of his investigators this past week requested from the city a trove of emails exchanged between Boca Raton’s top officials that reference Haynie and Batmasian.

After The Post’s story, the Boca council made a formal request to the ethics commission for a review. But it’s likely the commission initiated the investigation on its own.

Haynie, a longtime Boca Raton political figure and Republican candidate for Palm Beach County Commission, and her husband founded a property management firm that for years has been collecting thousands in paychecks from a company controlled by Batmasian and his wife. All the while, she has voted on at least a dozen projects that benefit Batmasian, the largest commercial property owner in the city, without disclosing the business link, The Post found.

Without identifying herself or Batmasian, Haynie sought an ethics advisory opinion in 2013 to see if she could vote. After several revisions over months, the commission found that she could vote under narrow circumstances.

The opinion applies to only when Batmasian is neither the developer nor the applicant coming before the Boca Raton City Council. However, in the 12 votes she took, he or his company was the developer or applicant, The Post found.

The ethics investigator, Abigail Irizarry, made a public request Nov. 22 for city emails exchanged in 2013 that include keywords such as “Batmasian,” “Commission on Ethics,” and “property management company,” among others.

A week earlier, the council instructed City Manager Leif Ahnell to send a letter to the ethics commission asking the commission to review the 2013 opinion and “either affirm the issued advisory opinion or re-address the advisory opinion in an appropriate fashion.”

But the ethics commission doesn’t issue opinions on past opinions, Bannon said. Ethics commission staff discussed the letter this past week, but Bannon could not comment on what steps they might be taking, again citing county rules.

Instead, Haynie or the city can request a new opinion with a new set of facts to guide future votes.

Under those circumstances, the ethics commission’s request for emails is not a review of a past opinion, as Boca Raton requested, but a step in probing Haynie’s actions.

A related complaint from a Haynie political foe also is the subject of a Florida Commission on Ethics review.

The city council was expected to discuss the issue tonight.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

When Harry met Barry: Prince interviews Obama for BBC radio
When Harry met Barry: Prince interviews Obama for BBC radio

Prince Harry and former President Barack Obama had some fun banter before their interview on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program, the BBC reported. “Do I have to speak faster? Because I am a slow speaker,” Obama asks the prince before an interview that will be aired Dec. 27. “No, not at all,” Harry responds...
JUST IN: Fire damages Belle Glade home, sends resident packing
JUST IN: Fire damages Belle Glade home, sends resident packing

A house fire in Belle Glade this morning has put one person out of a home, the American Red Cross local chapter reports. The fire happened at a home on Northwest 11th Street and did enough damage to make the place unsafe for anyone to live there. The Red Cross is helping the resident with temporary shelter, food and clothing.
Pope Francis criticizes journalists for reporting old scandals
Pope Francis criticizes journalists for reporting old scandals

Pope Francis rebuked journalists that report old scandals and sensationalize the news, calling it “a very serious sin” that hurts the involved parties, CBS News reported, citing an Associated Press story. On the eve of his 81st birthday Saturday, the pontiff said journalists should remember to provide precise, complete and correct...
After the video: Dairy association tries to counter abuse allegations
After the video: Dairy association tries to counter abuse allegations

Florida’s dairy industry has been in an unwanted spotlight since the Nov. 9 release of surveillance videos showing workers kicking cows at Larson Dairy in Okeechobee County. The image portrayed is far from that of cows grazing in idyllic pastures and has the potential to harm both milk sales and economic stability of the industry. RELATED: Three...
Suicide bomber kills 7 in Pakistani church
Suicide bomber kills 7 in Pakistani church

Seven people were killed and more than two dozen were injured Sunday when a suicide bomber attacked a church packed with more than 400 worshippers during a service in Pakistan, CNN reported. A Methodist church in Quetta was targeted by two attackers, but only one was able to denonate his vest, according to Sarfaraz Bugti, the interior minister...
More Stories