The Coastal Star

Boca Raton: Lawyer’s golf course fee takes city by surprise

By Steve Plunkett

The Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District will pay Arthur Koski, its lawyer and executive director, $120,000 for extra work he performed negotiating and finalizing the $24 million purchase of the Ocean Breeze golf course.

Koski’s fee arrangement, spelled out in a contract with the district for 27 years, surprised city officials, who issued $19 million in municipal bonds for the purchase and only learned about the lawyer’s bill in the closing statement.

“We would appreciate it if, prior to the payment of such fee, the district would confirm to the city that the payment to the district’s attorney/executive director complies with the Florida Code of Ethics, the Palm Beach Code of Ethics and any other applicable law or regulation,” Mayor Susan Haynie wrote the district Feb. 23.

Koski defended his fee at the district’s March 19 meeting, saying his secretary originally told him he spent more than 900 hours over the past two years on the acquisition and was due $360,000 at his normal rate of $400 per hour. 

Koski said he consulted two other attorneys and decided a “fair fee” was one-half of 1 percent of the golf course price, or $120,000.

“If there is a perception that somehow I was seeking to have the purchase price increase so that I could get an additional one-half of 1 percent, I would totally reject that,” he said. “I would have been better off just sticking with the hourly rate.”

Koski’s contract with the district, signed in 1991, provides for a monthly stipend for legal services, now $12,500, plus his hourly fee for litigation or acquisitions. He also is paid $10,000 a month as the district’s executive director.

Beach and Park commissioners approved paying Koski once outside counsel confirms to the city that no ethics rules were violated.

Haynie’s letter and online postings about the fee torpedoed a joint meeting of the district and City Council set for Feb. 28.

“With the temperature that I was reading in the paper and the comments I was reading on Facebook, I was not confident that we would be able to keep the discussion above the table,” District Chairman Robert Rollins said. Ú

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