Exclusive: Boynton commissioner’s family business had no city license

Updated Aug 09, 2016

For four years, Boynton Beach City Commissioner Christina Romelus’ family business — described by her as a visual marketing company — operated in the city without a business license, The Palm Beach Post has learned.

The Post raised the issue Friday and Romelus’ husband submitted paperwork to get a license on Tuesday.

The Post’s request also prompted city staff to review all commissioners to make sure they are in compliance with the business rules, said Andrew Mack, the city’s director of development. No problems were found, he said.

Romelus’ family business, Sky Administrations LLC, has played an important role — as recently as mid-July — in the campaigns of Mack Bernard, Al Jacquet and Bobby Powell, who are running in primary races that have come under scrutiny concerning absentee voting. The three campaigns have paid the company about $52,000 for items such as T-shirts and signs, campaign records show.

Romelus, listed as a company manager since April 2013, gave up that role on March 30, a few weeks after her election. Corporate records show the company is run solely by her husband, Darren.

“This was a home-based business that was started a long time ago, about four years ago. I don’t think at that point in time it was something we had intentions to do anything with,” she said.

She called the lack of business licensing an oversight.

“It’s been corrected now,” she said.

Jacquet has paid the family business $26,442 for T-shirts, signs and labor, campaign finance documents show. That’s 72 percent of Jacquet’s spending in his race for a House seat.

Bernard, a candidate for county commission, has paid Sky $17,339, about 15 percent of his spending. State Rep. Powell, running for state Senate, has spent $9,610 with Sky.

Sky also is doing work for Sen. Jeff Clemens, $5,079; Emmanuel Morel, $2,452; Tinu Peña, $566; and judicial candidate Bradley Harper, $7,380.

The state and county don’t require Sky to have a business license, said Cinthya Lavin, director of communications for the Southeast Florida and Caribbean chapter of the Better Business Bureau.

In Boynton Beach, however, even companies run from within a home must have what the city calls a business tax receipt and certificate of use and occupancy. Sky Administrations is registered with the state at the Romelus home.

“It’s a requirement. A city ordinance. We regulate businesses to make sure the public is not being harmed and it’s a tax that generates revenue to do business within the city,” Mack said.

Sky Administrations’ application submitted Tuesday is under review, he said.

Sky is not under investigation, Christina Romelus said Monday.

The offices of State Attorney Dave Aronberg and Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher are looking into allegations that mail-in ballot requests didn’t match signatures on file in the District 7 county commission and the District 88 state House races.

On Tuesday, attorney Michael Steinger, who is running against Powell, wrote Aronberg, Bucher and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement alleging “similar activity” in his race.

Romelus herself received nearly half her votes in the March city election from mail-in ballots. She called the claims in Bernard’s and Jacquet’s races “fear-mongering” aimed at stifling the Haitian-American community. She said Haitian-Americans find it easier to mail in their votes because they often can’t get away from work.

This isn’t the first time a commissioner has had questions raised about their business. After David Merker was elected in 2013 as District 1 commissioner, staff told him he needed to get the same documentation to continue running his insurance business out of his home.

“I was surprised,” Merker said, “because I worked out of my house.”

Businesses operating without a license is common, and the city is paying more attention to the issue, Mack said.

“We have people that just don’t know the requirements or think they’re in compliance. We’re working on that part …” Mack said.

He added, a “best practice” could be when there are new commissioners on board to do a “status check.”