BOCA RATON, Fla. - One of the property owners at the center of a long-running conflict of interest controversy that involves a mayor has granted her first TV interview to Contact 5.
Marta Batmasian told Contact 5, she wants any perceived conflict of interest involving Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie to end.
"We didn’t know it was going to develop to this level. And we didn’t really see any conflict because we appear in front the council the last 35 years and it’s never been an issue. This is a small town, where everyone knows everyone," said Batmasian, addressing the fallout from a Palm Beach Post investigation.
The investigation found Mayor Susan Haynie did not disclose the fact that a company she and her husband founded managed a condo association in which the Batmasians own a majority interest.
The company owned by the Haynies, Community Reliance, has collected $12,000 a year, to do so.
"There was no backdoor deal. We own a majority of Tivoli Park, as a matter of fact, I own a majority of Tivoli Park and when the previous management company suddenly left all of their work, were required to have an association manager. We can’t manage legally so, I guess my employees' managers over there scrambled to find someone with a compatible fee, monthly fee. And Community Reliance was one of them," said Batmasian.
The Post said its investigation revealed that Haynie voted on 12 issues involving the Batmasians since they were hired. Votes, the Post reports, increased the Batmasians' property value.
Batmasian claims she never received any special favors from the city. "Never, as a matter of fact, the article that specifically said we doubled our money on that property, that was the biggest lie. We lost money on that property because the neighborhood did not want to have nursing school or apartment building."
"To be honest with you, I didn’t even know who Community Reliance was initially. Took a while, I said 'oh that’s Mr. Haynie’s company,' we didn’t even think about a conflict. And I said don’t think but it’s gotten so out of handle that we just think it’s time to sever this relationship," said Batmasian.
Marta Batmasian said she wants the condo association to end its association with Community Reliance and will ask them to find another management company. Contact 5 asked why she didn't do that earlier.
"First of all, it was the association and I’m not a hands-on association, I’ve never attended an association meeting and this is a Deerfield Beach property, it’s just we didn’t put the two together. It was so inconsequential, such a small deal, no one really thought it would blow out of proportion.
In the Post's investigation, the paper cited a lawsuit from one of Batmasian's former employers, who said Marta has always been hands-on with the condo association. She claims that's a lie.
Contact 5 confirmed the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics is looking into records linking Mayor Susan Haynie and James and Marta Batmasian.
An ethics commission investigator requested Haynie’s emails from 2013 from the city with terms such as “Batmasian,” “Investments Limited,” “Ethics” and “Condominium Association.”