If Anthony Fritz was planning to help get the new city of Westlake up and running, that work may have to wait.
Fritz, one of the five voters whose support led to the creation of Palm Beach County’s newest city, is being held in the Palm Beach County Jail on a battery charge for allegedly attacking his girlfriend, Sheriff’s Office records show.
A sheriff’s deputy arrested Fritz on June 11 after responding to a 911 hang up at 4001 Seminole Pratt Whitney Road, records show. After a judge verbally ordered him not to contact the girlfriend, he was recorded making a telephone call to her from jail last Thursday. Two days later, he received a written order barring him from contact with Brittany Rinaldi, another of the Westlake voters.
The Seminole Pratt Whitney address is listed in elections records as being shared by Fritz, Rinaldi, Kara Crump, William Guevara and Phillip Everett, the five whose votes were all that was necessary to convert the Seminole Improvement District into Palm Beach County’s 39th city in an election made possible under a law passed by the Legislature in 2012.
Westlake’s founding has generated anger from those who worry it means unchecked growth in an area known for horses and dirt roads and surprise among those who can’t believe only a handful of people can create a new city.
Fritz not only voted in favor of the new city, he agreed to serve as one of its transitional council members, according to a 249-page conversion document sent to The Palm Beach Post, which is reviewing the city’s founding and the people who made it happen.
Little about the voters or transitional council members is known. Calls to them went unanswered Wednesday. Voice mail messages and emails weren’t returned.
Fritz’s arrest and jailing could prompt action from Gov. Rick Scott — assuming the governor knows of the new city, which was created Monday night when the votes of the five district residents were certified by a Palm Beach County elections canvassing board. The ballots were sent to the voters June 3.
Florida’s governor has the authority to remove local elected officials who are indicted or arrested. A Scott spokeswoman said his office is reviewing the Westlake case.
According to a report filed by a detective in PBSO’s special investigations-domestic violence unit, while Fritz was in jail and ordered not to contact the girlfriend he was charged with battering, he called her and attempted to get her not to press charges against him.
His call was recorded, as all inmates’ calls from the jail are.
“I have black and blue marks all over my body,” Fritz’ girlfriend tells him, according to a transcript of their recorded conversation. “You were supposed to be protecting me, but you are the one hurting me.”
Fritz tells the woman he’s sorry, blames drinking and stress and pledges to make things right.
“I’ll work and give you every penny,” he says in the transcript. “My probation office said if you call the public defender’s office and say you were not pressing charges, I can probably get out in a couple weeks. If not, I’ll have to do three to six months in here.”
The detective, summarizing Fritz’ actions in a report filed Friday, wrote that he will be charging him with tampering with a witness and aggravated stalking.
When Fritz was arrested June 11, he already was on probation, reports show.
According to state Department of Correction records, he was sentenced on May 19, 2015 to two years’ probation for a Aug. 18, 2013 charge of failure to return leased property and a Jan. 10, 2015 cocaine possession charge. Adjudication of guilt was withheld in both cases.
On Wednesday, none of the voters who created Westlake could be found at 4001 Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.
The address is actually for a set of fenced-off offices that sit across the road from Seminole Ridge Community High School. Property records show the offices are owned by Minto Communities, the largest landowner in the area and the company that is building the development that will be the city of Westlake.
The offices are used by the Seminole Improvement District, an entity that, for many years, has been responsible for drainage, water, wastewater and area roads, according to Ken Cassel, the district’s manager.
Cassel said those who voted to create Westlake live in the area and simply use the Seminole Pratt Whitney Road address as their own.
Others in The Acreage area, where the district — and now Westlake — are located, blame Minto for the incorporation of the new city, which they fear will bring more traffic and change to their rural lifestyle than the development approved by the county.
Minto got approval from Palm Beach County two years ago to build 4,500 homes and develop 2.2 million square feet of non-residential space. That approval capped a contentious, back-and-forth set of meetings where commissioners took sharp criticism from residents who opposed the project.
Commissioners, however, knew Minto could use that 2012 law and encourage incorporation.
A public relations firm working with Minto announced Westlake’s incorporation Monday night. Minto’s vice president, John Carter, pledged to work with the new city.
He had previously said his firm would support incorporation after encountering difficulty in working with the county on such things as permits, a claim county staff members disputed.
Incorporation could open the door to a larger project than the one Minto laid out in plans it presented to the county.
That prospect further inflames those who were already hot about Minto’s plans.
“We don’t want the urbanization of this area,” said Betty Argue, a member of a Loxahatchee group that mounted a legal push to block Minto’s project. “Horses and cars don’t mix.”