- By Alexandra Seltzer Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
A Lantana resident filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics in January claiming the town’s mayor said if she had sex with him he would make sure her neighborhood would receive speed bumps — a safety measure she had asked the town to install.
Catherine Padilla also said the mayor, David Stewart, about three years ago drove her to a motel one day after they had lunch and wanted to “occupy” a room with her, according to her Jan. 2 complaint. She later told The Palm Beach Post the mayor said he wanted to have sex with her in the room. She told him “no” and did not get out of the car.
The state commission notified Stewart of the complaint, as is protocol. And on Jan. 11, Stewart went to Padilla’s home to talk about the complaint, according to the statement he gave to Lantana Police. Padilla did not let him inside. Police described the visit as a “suspicious incident.”
Stewart told The Post Padilla’s claims are false.
He said in all his years as mayor he has never asked for or accepted anything in exchange for a vote.
“These accusations are totally and completely false,” Stewart said. “I won’t dignify them by commenting. I continue to focus on doing my best for the residents of our town and community.”
Stewart has been mayor since 2000. His seat was up this year, however he is running unopposed in the March 13 election.
State ethics complaints are not public record until the investigation is complete, but Padilla recently told The Post about the accusations.
Padilla said she didn’t feel strong enough to make a report until now. Her ex-husband, Herminio Padilla Jr., died in January 2015 while working at the East Central Regional sewage plant in West Palm Beach. Padilla, a plant worker, fell through a metal floor grating, plunged into sewage and was lodged in a 42-inch pipe.
“I’m finally strong enough. My feet are on the ground now,” Catherine Padilla said. “I’m finally feeling strong enough to come forward with this.”
Catherine Padilla and Stewart became friendly about five years ago from Kiwanis Club meetings, she said. She said the motel incident happened when she was working to get her neighborhood speed bumps around 2014 and 2015. Padilla said they attended a Kiwanis meeting the day of the motel visit. She said after they drove to lunch together in Stewart’s work vehicle, Stewart pulled into a motel parking lot. Padilla said she told him “no” and they left the lot.
However, she said the behavior continued. Before the meeting where the Town Council was to vote on whether to pay for the speed bumps, Stewart called her saying it wasn’t too late to sleep with him to guarantee her neighborhood would receive the safety measure, she said. Padilla said she again told him “no.”
The town did grant the traffic calming devices at an August 2015 council meeting. Before the vote, Padilla created a petition that was signed by about 71 percent of the residents in that area and the town determined through its analysis the neighborhood got enough traffic to warrant the safety bumps.
Stewart admitted he went to Padilla’s home in January to discuss the complaint. He told police, according to the report, that he knocked on her side door and she pulled the blinds closed and locked the door. He said he did not touch the door except to knock on it. He got into his vehicle and left.
An ethics commission spokesperson could not say how long the investigation would take. She said the commission receives a “couple hundred” complaints per year.