By Mary Hladky
Suspended mayor Susan Haynie will seek an evidentiary hearing before the Florida Commission on Ethics on allegations she violated state ethics laws in eight instances.
Haynie’s attorney, Bruce Zimet, said he had requested that the commission delay proceedings until after her criminal case was resolved.
But the commission went ahead, and on Oct 19 said it had found probable cause that Haynie had violated ethics laws.
By seeking a hearing, Haynie is indicating she will not enter settlement talks.
The commission examined Haynie’s financial links to downtown landowners James and Marta Batmasian and their company Investments Limited. Commission advocate Elizabeth A. Miller, an assistant attorney general, found that Haynie failed to disclose income, acted to financially benefit herself and her husband, and improperly voted on matters that benefitted the Batmasians without declaring a conflict of interest.
The findings are not a determination that Haynie violated state laws, but a conclusion that there is enough evidence of violations to allow the investigation to proceed.
Zimet said the commission’s report has no bearing on Haynie’s criminal case. “It’s a totally separate proceeding,” he said, adding that it’s findings are only one side of the case.
Zimet spoke after a brief court hearing on Oct. 26, where he told Circuit Court Judge Glenn Kelley that discovery in the criminal case is proceeding. Another case status check will be held on Jan. 15.
Haynie, 63, did not appear at the hearing. She has pleaded not guilty and waived her right to a speedy trial.
She was arrested on April 24 on seven public corruption charges, including official misconduct, perjury, misuse of public office and failure to disclose voting conflicts. If convicted, she faces more than 20 years in prison.
Gov. Rick Scott suspended her from office, but she has not resigned. Scott Singer was elected mayor on Aug. 28.
Prosecutors contend that Haynie used her position on the city council to vote on four matters that financially benefitted James Batmasian, the city’s largest downtown commercial landowner, and failed to disclose income she received from him.
The investigation by the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office found that Haynie failed to report $335,000 in income in financial disclosure forms required by the state, including $84,000 from Batmasian or his company Investments Limited from 2014 through 2017.