City Attorney James Cherof will not be sanctioned by the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics for the way he handled the infamous video of former Mayor José Rodriguez’ wife talking to police, an interview which indirectly led to Rodriguez’ arrest on political corruption charges.
Auto body and tow truck firm owner David Floering, a frequent critic of the city in general and Cherof in particular, had filed the complaint on Feb. 13, alleging Cherof “misused his official position” by not releasing the video in a timely manner.
The commission’s staff concluded the complaint was “legally insufficient,” and the commission concurred at its March 7 meeting.
“The complaint was baseless and I’m pleased the commission acted quickly to dismiss it,” Cherof said Tuesday in an email.
“The ethics commission has proved to be useless again,” Floering said.
In August 2011, a tearful Sarah Marquez met with Boynton Beach detectives about problems with her marriage. During the talk, she suggested Rodriguez might have abused Marquez’s then-11-year-old daughter. Police looked into the issue and declared it unfounded. But in the meantime, Rodriguez had allegedly pressured Police Chief Matt Immler and City Manager Lori LaVerriere to stop the investigation. That led to his January 2012 arrest and suspension.
Floering, meanwhile, had gotten wind of the interview soon after it took place, and had demanded the videotape under the state’s public records laws.
Cherof had written the attorney of Marquez, advising of Floering’s request; the attorney then got a judge to block the city from releasing the video. Floering argued in his complaint that Cherof had deliberately withheld the tape from Floering to give Marquez time to get a court order.
In executive summaries, ethics commission staff, said Floering asked for the tape on a Thursday and Cherof responded that he’d determined it was public record and that it would be ready on the following Tuesday, which “was not ‘unreasonable.’”
Commission summaries said the panel found no evidence Cherof conspired with Marquez’ attorneys. And in fact, the summaries said, had the city given the video to Floering and the judge later ruled it not eligible to be released, the city could have been subject to lawsuits.
After Rodriguez’ January arrest, a copy of the video was turned over to the Palm Beach County State Attorney. Media outlets then demanded the video from prosecutors, and a judge ruled they had to release it, which they did, making the dispute over Boynton Beach’s release moot.