Boca Mayor Haynie charged with official misconduct, corruption

Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie was charged Tuesday with official misconduct, perjury in an official proceeding, misuse of public office and corrupt misuse of public office and booked into the Palm Beach County jail Tuesday night.

The charges against Haynie, a Republican candidate for county commission, stem from undisclosed income Haynie and her husband, Neil, collected while she was in office, including payments from a developer whose projects she voted on, the arrest report says.

Haynie, clad in sweats, walked into the jail Tuesday evening with her criminal defense attorney, Leonard S. Feuer, before being booked. Draped across her shoulders was a Tommy Bahama “Relax” sweatshirt. She walked out about 2½ hours later after paying $12,000 bail.

A November Palm Beach Post investigation revealed that Haynie voted on projects that gave “a special financial benefit” to real estate mogul James Batmasian while her family’s business was collecting money from him. State attorney investigators cited The Post’s stories in the arrest report.

A state attorney’s spokesman declined to comment Tuesday.

In a text message late Tuesday, Feuer said Haynie is preparing a vigorous defense against four felony and three misdemeanor charges.

“Mrs. Haynie wholeheartedly and completely denies the allegations, which we plan to fight in court to the fullest extent,” Feuer said.

Haynie, 62, is charged with three counts of official misconduct, a third-degree felony, for falsifying her mandatory state financial disclosure forms in 2014, 2015 and 2016 by “omitting the fact that she was being compensated” by Batmasian and his businesses, the report says. She is charged with perjury, also a third-degree felony, for lying under oath to county ethics investigators about that compensation.

She is also charged with three first-degree misdemeanors — misuse of public office, corrupt misuse of official position and failure to disclose voting conflicts. 

A property management firm founded by Haynie and her husband earned at least $64,000 for installing security cameras at four properties owned by Batmasian, including $22,000 for work at the 15-acre Royal Palm Place near Mizner Park downtown, an investigation by the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics found.

Haynie told ethics investigators under oath that her husband had not been paid. However, Batmasian’s wife, Marta, told investigators that the Haynies had been paid.

Haynie’s bank records revealed $335,000 in never-before-reported payments, including the property management firm, a software firm and rent collection from the couple’s Key Largo property between March 2014 and 2017, according to a probable cause affidavit. She never disclosed any of the real estate or businesses on her state-mandated financial disclosure forms.

Haynie previously told The Post that she had no involvement with the property management firm, Community Reliance. Yet investigators said her name was on the company’s bank account and she wrote two checks worth $5,300 to herself from the account.

She also told investigators she had no outside income, but a software firm owned by her husband collected $72,600, the report says.

Haynie voted on at least a dozen projects that benefited Batmasian without disclosing the business link at the time of the votes or in mandatory state financial disclosure forms, The Post reported. She said she did so under the guidance of a county ethics ruling and on the advice of the city attorney.

However, The Post’s investigation showed that the narrowly worded ethics opinion did not apply to the votes Haynie took. Additionally, The Post showed that Haynie and the city sought the ethics opinion without naming her or Batmasian and that they went back and forth for three months with the ethics board before obtaining an opinion that allowed her to vote, but only under the most narrow circumstances.

Haynie and her husband, Neil, ran Community Reliance, which oversaw Tivoli Park, a 1,600-unit apartment complex in Deerfield Beach. The Batmasians are the owners of 1,400 units in Tivoli Park and have majority control over the board of directors and its finances. Five of the six Tivoli board members worked for the Batmasians’ company, Investments Limited.

Haynie told ethics investigators and The Post that Community Reliance earned $12,000 a year, later increased to $14,000, from the association that operates Tivoli Park.

But bank records revealed Haynie earned $16,000 from the contract in 2017. “This amount is well below the expected income for managing a property of this size, which would normally command an income of nearly $150,000 to $200,000 per year,” the state attorney investigator said in the charging document.

Susan Haynie owned Community Reliance with her husband from 2007 to 2015, but her name was dropped from the company’s annual reports in 2016. The Palm Beach County ethics code doesn’t distinguish between businesses owned by elected officials and their spouses.

About a month after The Post investigation went public, Haynie’s husband gave up the Tivoli Park job.

The Post reported in January that Haynie contemplated withdrawing from the county commission race, but she didn’t. Instead, she drew a Democratic opponent, one-time ally and fellow Boca Raton Councilman Robert Weinroth.

Haynie did not attend a Boca Raton City Council meeting Tuesday night because she was being booked into the jail.

The news of Haynie’s charges emerged during the meeting. Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke asked to stop the meeting midway to address the issue, calling it “surprising” and “upsetting.”

“How do we handle this?” she asked the city manager and city attorney.

City Attorney Diana Frieser said there is “no vacancy,” as Haynie hasn’t resigned her seat and the council does not have the authority to remove her from office, although the governor can.

Haynie told City Manager Leif Ahnell that she was ill and wouldn’t make it to the meeting, Ahnell said. City staff learned about the criminal charge from a Post article published online during the meeting.

Councilwoman Monica Mayotte said the news was disturbing.

“I feel bad for the residents because I feel public trust has been broken again,” Mayotte said. “We need to deal with this head on.”

Staff writer Daphne Duret contributed to this story.

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