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Former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie pleads guilty to 2 misdemeanors

Disgraced former mayor sentenced to 12 months of probation under terms of plea deal
Susan Haynie in court for plea deal, April 1, 2021
Posted at 11:20 AM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-01 13:22:37-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Disgraced former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie has pleaded guilty to a pair of misdemeanor charges stemming from her 2018 arrest.

Haynie was in a Palm Beach County courtroom Thursday morning as she entered a guilty plea to two first-degree misdemeanors -- misuse of public office or employment and failure to disclose voting conflicts.

Under the terms of her plea agreement, the remaining charges have been dropped.

As part of the plea deal, Haynie was sentenced to 12 months of probation and may not seek or hold public office during that time. She was also sentenced to one day in jail but received credit for time served.

After Palm Beach County Judge Dana Gillen sentenced Haynie, defense attorney Bruce Zimet spoke to reporters outside the courtroom.

"Certainly she apologizes for what occurred," Zimet said. But certainly what occurred is totally different than the claim of corruption, which certainly there was not in this case."

Haynie was a year into her second term as mayor when she was arrested in 2018 on several charges, including three counts of official misconduct.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Haynie failed to disclose income that she and her husband collected while she was in office, including payments from a developer who did business with the city.

Susan Haynie leaves Palm Beach County courtroom after guilty plea, April 1, 2021
Susan Haynie leaves a Palm Beach County courtroom after pleading guilty to two first-degree misdemeanors, April 1, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Fla.

An investigation by the Palm Beach County state attorney's office began in March 2017 after receiving complaints that Haynie "used her position to vote on issues having a favorable financial impact on a developer who owns a substantial amount of property" in the city.

Detective Diana Burfield wrote in the affidavit that Haynie falsified her required state financial disclosure forms in 2014, 2015 and 2016 by "omitting the fact that she was being compensated" by developer James Batmasian.

According to records from the Florida Division of Corporations, Susan and Neil Haynie were listed as managing members of a company called Community Reliance LLC when it was founded in 2008. Susan Haynie was listed as a managing member until 2016, when her husband became sole managing member.

The investigation revealed that the association at Tivoli Park, a condominium owned by Batmasian, hired Community Reliance LLC and paid the company at least $12,000 per year to manage the property. Susan Haynie told ethics investigators in a sworn statement that her husband had not been paid, but Batmasian's wife claimed that he had, Burfield wrote.

"Susan Haynie voted on four occasions during 2016 and 2017 while being compensated by the people benefiting from the outcomes of the votes," Burfield wrote. "During 2016, Susan Haynie and her husband, through the companies they operated, received a total of $77,843.13 in 2016 and $36,835.39 in 2017. This income was undisclosed."

Susan Haynie listens as her attorney speaks after her plea deal, April 1, 2021
Susan Haynie listens as her attorney speaks outside a Palm Beach County courtroom where she pleaded guilty to two first-degree misdemeanors, April 1, 2021, in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Although the sentence leaves the door open for Haynie's possible return to politics in the future, Zimet made it clear his client's days as a public servant -- in Palm Beach County, at least -- are over.

"I think Susan wants to move on with her life, and I think she's had her taste of politics in Palm Beach County," Zimet said.