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Investigation into alleged Sunshine Law violation in Loxahatchee Groves ends with no charges

Investigation in alleged Sunshine violation closed
WPTV gavel wooden
Posted at 5:44 PM, Mar 12, 2019

LOXAHATCHEE GROVES, Fla. — The Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office has ended an investigation into alleged violations of Florida's public meeting laws by council members in Loxahatchee Groves without any charges.

According to a letter obtained by WPTV, the allegations were unsubstantiated. The allegations were looked into by the Public Corruption Unit of the State Attorney's Office, which has closed the investigation.

The investigation centered around whether council members met privately to discuss options for replacing the former town manager, Bill Underwood.

In January, the Town Council voted unanimously to terminate its contract with Underwood Management Services Group. The council then voted 4-1 to hire the new town manager, Jamie Titcomb, in Underwood's place.

WPTV's news partners at the Palm Beach Post reported last month that the complaints centered "around Councilwoman Anita Kane." Kane was appointed to the council this past December after former Councilwoman Joyce Batcheler resigned in November 2018.

Reached by phone, Councilwoman Kane said she was "very happy" that the investigation has ended.

"I appreciate the fact that what I know to be true was true, and that there was no sunshine law violation," Councilwoman Kane told WPTV. She added that "it's unfortunate that certain people have to cast dispersion's on the character of others during election time."

Councilwoman Kane is one of two incumbents seeking re-election in today's municipal election. If re-elected, she will serve the two years remaining from former Councilwoman Batcheler's term.

The letter from the State Attorney's Office on the closure of the investigation provides some insight into the hiring of the Jamie Titcomb as the new town manager.

It notes that Titcomb met "several officials from the Town of Loxahatchee Groves" at a League of Cities luncheon in December, but adds that Titcomb was approached "individually by several different" officials during the luncheon.

"These actions were not in violation of Florida's Sunshine Laws due to the fact that Titcomb individually met with each elected official and not with them in a group."

The letter also says that all elected officials in the town "were cooperative and answered all questions" during the investigation.

Loxahatchee Groves held municipal elections Tuesday, with three spots on the Town Council up for grabs. Councilwoman Kane is seeking her seat against challenger Lisa El-Ramey. Vice-Mayor Todd McClendon is seeking re-election as well, and former Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Supervisor Laura Danowski is vying for his spot on the council.

The last seat, held by Mayor Todd Browning, is also up for grabs. Mayor Browning chose not to seek re-election this year, and residents Robert Shorr and Karen Plante are running for his spot.

Click here for election results.