Boca Raton mayor arrested on criminal charges

Susan Haynie (PBSO)

Boca Mayor Susan Haynie was arrested on criminal charges Tuesday night, the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office said.

Both Deputy Mayor Scott Singer and councilwoman Andrea Levine-O’Rourke told CBS12 News that along with feelings of anger and outrage, the fact that Haynie has been the center of a criminal investigation is something that neither City Hall nor the people of Boca Raton need.

“This does not look good,” Levine-O’Rourke said. “This is irresponsible behavior. We are elected to represent the citizens. The one thing the citizens elected us for is our judgment and that they can trust us.”

Levine-O’Rourke echoed Singer’s thoughts that Haynie must put the people first and doing that means removing herself from office.

“I think the mayor needs to step down promptly,” Singer said. “We need to press forward as a city and ensure that we are focused on the residents’ business. “

Haynie's arrest comes after she agreed to settle an ethics case last week, where she didn't disclose a conflict of interest. She agreed to pay a $500 fine and accept a public reprimand as a negotiated settlement.

The Sun Sentinel reported that Haynie was expected to address the council in Tuesday night's meeting, but City Manager Leif J. Ahnell said at the meeting that he received a phone call from her earlier in the day saying she was too sick to attend.

In March 2017, the state attorney's office received complaints that Haynie used her position as an elected official to vote on issues "having a favorable financial impact on a developer who owns a substantial amount of property" in the city, according to an arrest affidavit. The complaints alleged Haynie didn't disclose the income she got from developer James Batmasian while conducting business with him and his companies through Community Reliance LLC, the company she owned with her husband.

The affidavit states that Batmasian and his company owned 1,400 of the 1,600 condos at Tivoli Park, which also employed Community Reliance LLC and compensates the company at least $12,000 annually to manage the property. As the elected mayor, Haynie was required by the state to fill out a Form 1 Statement of Financial Interests every year. On that form, she was supposed to disclose "sources and types of income and financial interests, employers, real property holdings, intangible personal properties and liabilities."

A subpoena to Bank of America and Wells Fargo revealed Haynie collected rent for individuals in Key Largo, as well as checks from a Wells Fargo account that were written, signed and endorsed by Haynie, according to the affidavit. Haynie regularly wrote checks from these accounts and used the funds to pay professional bills, personal bills and to pay herself an income.

In a formal interview with an investigator at the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics in January, Haynie denied that her husband didn't get compensated for any security installation work done at Tivoli Park and that she didn't receive any income from Community Reliance LLC between 2012 and 2016.

Haynie is facing charges of perjury in an official judge proceeding, corrupt misuse of public office, misuse of public office, official misconduct and failure to disclose information regarding votes in office. If convicted, she faces a maximum of 23 years.

“The mayor deserves her full day in court,” Singer said. “The challenge is that while those proceedings are going on, there will be a shadow for the city’s work.”

“We have a very strong city manager so he is more than capable of handling the business of the city and we now have a deputy mayor that will step up and temporarily act as Mayor and we will go forward handling the rest of the city council,” Levine-O’Rouke said.

As of Wednesday night, Haynie has not stepped down from her post, although she has withdrawn from running in an upcoming county commission race. Even so, the focus for Singer and Levine-O’Rourke is on getting back to the work of the city and its people.

“It's sad for Boca Raton,” Singer said. “I was upset and disappointed to find out the new information that I found out last night. I think that the best thing for the residents of Boca Raton would be for her to step down.”

“We are elected to represent the citizens,” Levine-O’Rourke said. “The one thing the citizens elect us for is our judgement and that they can trust us. She has eroded that trust. She has eroded what people feel is good judgement. We're a very strong city. We're a very well-run city. Our machine will go on but out leadership is compromised right now.”

Phone calls to Haynie’s lawyer were not returned, although he previously issued a statement, reading:

Mrs. Haynie wholeheartedly and completely denies the allegations which we plan to fight in court to the fullest extent.

Haynie was first elected to the Boca Raton City Council in 2002. She was elected Mayor in 2014 and re-elected last year as the city’s 43rd mayor.

On the city’s website, Haynie says one of her focuses as mayor is making city government accountable.

Read the full arrest affidavit below:

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