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Boca City Council votes to have Commission on Ethics review Mayor's "no conflict" opinion

Posted at 6:11 PM, Nov 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-25 09:11:23-05

Boca Raton's City Council is taking a controversy over the Mayor's voting records, into their own hands, now asking the Palm Beach Commission on Ethics to see whether they're doing everything by the book.  

Earlier this month, a Palm Beach Post investigation found Mayor Susan Haynie voted at least 12 times on proposals that benefited the city's largest commercial property owners. Property owners the Post said she has financial ties with. 

Since the story was uncovered, Haynie has stood behind her voting, saying it was allowed under a 2013 ethics opinion, where the Palm Beach Commission on Ethics said she had no voting conflict. 

The City Council, with the blessing of the mayor, voted to have the Commission look over that opinion again. 

"In 2013, if we knew where we’d be today, the decisions back then might have been different," Councilman Robert Weinroth said at the Boca City Council meeting held on Nov. 14.

Weinroth was talking, in part, about a decision Mayor Susan Haynie made to find out whether she had a potential conflict of interest, voting on proposals that benefited the Batmasians.

According to the Post, the Batmasians control a firm paying a property management company Haynie and her husband founded. 

"I’m not quite sure the process that was overseen by our city Attorney was necessarily the right procedure, given where we are today," Weinroth said while talking about a decision the City Attorney then made in 2013, to go back and forth with ethics investigators for months, before they said there was no voting conflict and no impression of impropriety. 

"It looked like you were trying to get a specific opinion. That’s what it looks like in the public, I want to just make sure that we’re clear, our public is clear, that you know we’re following the proper ethical process of doing that.," said Councilwoman Amy O'Rourke. "That was in question. I’m not accusing anybody of anything, I just want to be open and air whatever questions and light shining on our city and process and do the right thing."

To do that, the council says they need the Commission on Ethics to re-look at the opinion they issued in 2013, saying Haynie did not have a conflict of interest. 

"I would ask that we ask for an advisory opinion of the Palm Beach Ethics Commission," said Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers. "I would say, re-affirm this or are we not interpreting this correctly."

"I think it’s just asking for clarification," said Weinroth. "If the Commission on Ethics says everything is good, then that’s the end of the story, and that should be the end of the story hopefully."

They said they will send the 2013 opinion to the Commission on Ethics, as well as the Post's reporting.  

"I would say we should be proactive and send it and say, what do you think? And I’d be aghast if they’re not already thinking about it," said Rodgers.

The Ethics Commission will only make their investigation public, if they find probable cause of wrongdoing. 

There is no word on how long that will take.

The state's Ethics Board is looking into the voting controversy as well.