By Steve Plunkett
Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District commissioners parted ways — at least temporarily — with Art Koski, their former longtime lawyer and executive director, but said they would negotiate a new contract to keep him on as a consultant.
“I don’t see how we can just not have someone to fall back on like Mr. Koski,” District Chair Susan Vogelgesang said.
The 5-0 vote Oct. 21 to end Koski’s contract came five weeks after commissioners elevated facilities manager Melissa Dawson to be their “owner’s representative” on the planned Boca National golf course.
It’s the first time since 1978 that Koski has not held a job at the district. Koski, who shed his role as legal counsel in June 2018 and as executive director in January, was under contract to be project manager and construction manager of the golf course. He was paid $10,000 a month, the same amount he earned as executive director.
After several months of the arrangement, and after negotiations with the city on the golf course bogged down, District Vice Chair Erin Wright complained she wanted more information on how Koski spent his time.
At a July 15 meeting she opposed paying his invoice. “Sorry, I still haven’t, I haven’t received any kind of follow-up from Mr. Koski for the payment of his bill,” she said.
“It was emailed this morning at 6,” Koski responded.
Following a July 25 meeting the two had “an altercation” in the hallway, Executive Director Briann Harms said at the Oct. 21 meeting, offering no further details. Afterward she said “upsetting conversation” was a better description.
Wright made it clear her working relationship with Koski is over.
“I made the motion [to terminate his contract] because I don’t feel comfortable personally hiring Mr. Koski on as a consultant,” Wright said.
Commissioners told attorneys Sam Goren and Jacob Horowitz to draft a new agreement to make Koski a consultant and investigate what would constitute proper pay.
Horowitz said he, Harms, Wright and Koski met on Aug. 30 for an “open” and “candid” discussion of Koski’s role and relationship with the district. They all agreed at that point that Koski would give accounting time sheets for his work.
The new consulting contract will include a similar requirement.
Dawson’s designation as owner’s representative also came as a result of City Council pressure to have someone else oversee the golf course project. Commissioners said the terms of Koski’s new contract should dictate he reports to Harms.
“I think where the city has a problem, to be perfectly honest, is in dealing directly with Mr. Koski. And if we define his responsibilities so that he’s dealing only with us then I think we eliminate that problem,” Commissioner Steve Engel said.
Koski said the work he has done with the district “is just part of me.”
“I feel good as a lawyer that my opposition in the city of Boca Raton doesn’t like me. I think that I’ve done my job as we push back on a lot of things that have simply been unfair. And I hope that in the future you continue to do that, and vote your conscience, not vote for politics of the community,” he said.
Koski was paid $150,000 a year as the district’s lawyer. For a time he was lawyer, executive director and construction administrator for the De Hoernle Park sports fields, making $330,000 a year.
But because he was an outside contractor, he received no pension or health benefits. He also paid for his downtown law office and staff from his own pocket.