Royal Palm mayor makes first statement to public since his arrest

10:10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 Local
Royal Palm Beach Mayor Fred Pinto attends a village council meeting in Royal Palm Beach on Nov. 16, 2017. Pinto was arrested on domestic battery charges Monday. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

At the first village council meeting since he was arrested on domestic battery charges Monday, Royal Palm Beach Mayor Fred Pinto apologized to his fellow council members and residents for the incident.

“My sincerest apologies for causing any embarrassment or concerns,” Pinto said. He noted that he and his wife “are fully reconciled together and moving forward together.”

READ MORE: Royal Palm mayor says he and wife working to move forward after domestic battery arrest

Pinto told The Palm Beach Post on Wednesday that he and his wife had a “heated argument” Monday when she slipped and fell outside the front door of their home. According to the arrest report, the victim — the report is redacted to remove anything that identifies her as Pinto’s wife — told a deputy the two were arguing when she did something “to allow the neighbors to hear how verbally abusive Frederick was to her.” Pinto said she had opened the front door, and that she fell as he tried to close it.

Thursday night’s meeting also was the first opportunity residents had to make public comments about the incident. With about two dozen people in the Village Meeting Hall, six stood to speak before the council and village attorney, manager and clerk seated on the dais.

Several residents addressed Pinto’s comments to The Post on Wednesday that any public comments about his arrest at the meeting would be “totally inappropriate” because it is a “personal issue.”

“Fred, telling the public they cannot comment or ask questions about this incident is clearly not the right way to go,” said former Royal Palm Beach councilman David Swift.

Martha Webster, a former councilwoman and Pinto’s opponent in the 2016 Royal Palm Beach mayoral race, said the arrest is not separate from his position on the council.

“He is the face of the village,” she said. “His actions reflect on the people of this village.”

Two of those who commented Thursday — Gary Webster (Martha’s husband) and Lenore White — called for Pinto’s resignation.

But resident Lori Cabrera said she does not think residents should ask for Pinto’s removal from office because it is not “the public’s responsibility to be judge and jury for anyone here.”

“When an individual is undergoing some personal issues and they also hold a public position, I understand that many people wonder and question their worthiness to maintain that position,” Cabrera said. “But I firmly believe … that this is a personal issue.”

A lawsuit from last year detailed an incident involving Pinto and his wife.

Pinto’s wife sued WPTV NewsChannel 5, her former employer, and their insurer, Travelers, in 2016 to force the company to cover her treatment for the lingering effects of an on-the-job injury to her upper arms in November 2014.

According to court records, one of her doctors reported that in October 2014, about a month before Pinto’s wife was injured by a falling tent while working for WPTV, he treated Pinto’s wife for injuries to her face and neck “after domestic abuse incident where she was hit in the face with a book.”

Pinto’s wife told the court “she did not give this history” to the doctor, and that she did not know why the doctor documented the injury that way, records show. Instead, she “testified she was inadvertently hit on the left side of her face and throat with a book thrown by her husband,” the court record states, adding that Pinto’s wife “denied the incident was a domestic abuse case.” Monday’s arrest was Pinto’s first, indicating no charges were filed related to the 2014 injury.

Florida Division of Administrative Hearings Judge Thomas A. Hedler ultimately found in favor of Pinto’s wife, saying the insurance company should pay for physical therapy for her left shoulder and reimburse Pinto’s wife for attorney’s fees and costs.

Pinto said before Thursday night’s council meeting that he was not aware of the doctor’s notes or the lawsuit. “I don’t know why the doctor would say that,” he said. Pinto and his wife married in 2013.

Pinto was first elected to Royal Palm Beach’s council in 2003. He won his seat as mayor in March 2016, following behind former mayor Matty Mattioli, who served more than 20 years on the council. Previously, Pinto worked for more than 20 years as a technology executive for Wall Street investment firms.

His two-year term as mayor ends in March 2018. He said he will continue his run for re-election.