By Mary Hladky
Any hopes that suspended Mayor Susan Haynie might have had of reclaiming her elected office ended Feb. 27 when both her defense lawyer and the prosecutor asked that her trial on public corruption charges be delayed.
In a four-minute hearing Circuit Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen canceled Haynie’s March 23 trial date and rescheduled it for July 20. He also told prosecutor Brian Fernandes and defense attorney Bruce Zimet to file any new evidence by June 1.
Fernandes contends that Haynie used her position on the City Council to vote on six matters that financially benefited Jim and Marta Batmasian, the city’s largest downtown commercial landowners and failed to disclose income she received from them or their company, Investments Limited.
Haynie, 64, did not attend the hearing. She has pleaded not guilty to charges of official misconduct, perjury, misuse of public office and failure to disclose voting conflicts. She faces more than 20 years in prison if she’s convicted.
Haynie, a fixture in Boca Raton politics for 18 years, has not publicly commented on the case since her April 24, 2018, arrest. Then-Gov. Rick Scott suspended her from office, but she never resigned.
If her trial had started March 23 and she were quickly acquitted, Haynie could potentially have reclaimed the mayor’s seat but only until her term of office ends on March 31.
Scott Singer was elected mayor four months after Haynie’s arrest and is seeking election to a full term on March 17 with only token opposition from Bernard Korn.
Until the rescheduling, there had been little activity in the case.
Three people listed by Fernandes as witnesses and who were subpoenaed in September to testify at trial have not been deposed and say they have not heard from the State Attorney’s Office.
Fernandes issued subpoenas at the same time to 12 other witnesses, but five were not served. The court file does not indicate another attempt was made to contact those witnesses.
Zimet has said repeatedly that he would file motions in the case. But as of late February, he had filed only two — a motion to dismiss the charges, which a judge dismissed in September 2018, and the motion to reschedule the trial.
Zimet has repeatedly insisted no plea deal is in the works.
“Innocent people don’t have plea bargains,” he said after an April 2019 hearing.
Al Zucaro, who no longer is updating his BocaWatch blog, confirmed receiving a trial subpoena but said he has not been deposed.
“I haven’t heard from the defense or the state on the issue. Dead silence,” he said on Feb. 18.
Zucaro, a Haynie adversary whom she defeated in the 2017 mayoral race, filed complaints against her with the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics and the Florida Commission on Ethics and spoke with state prosecutors. The county ethics panel had launched an investigation before receiving his complaint.
The Batmasians also received trial subpoenas but have not been deposed, Marta Batmasian said.
“We haven’t been called or contacted by the State Attorney’s Office,” she said in mid-February.
Also on the state’s witness list is Abigail Irizarry, an investigator with the county ethics panel, which probed Haynie’s financial ties to the Batmasians before she was charged by the state.
The county panel reached a settlement with Haynie in which she was reprimanded and fined for failing to disclose a conflict of interest. A second allegation that she misused her public office was dismissed.
A notice in the court file states that Irizarry and two State Attorney’s Office investigators were scheduled to be deposed in August 2018.
Irizarry said she was deposed but has not been contacted by the State Attorney’s Office recently. “I am sure I will be getting a telephone call in the next few weeks,” she said on Feb. 18.
Zimet and Fernandes have said they expect a five-day trial.
The State Attorney’s Office investigation found that Haynie failed to report $335,000 in income on financial disclosure forms required by the state, including $84,000 from the Batmasians or Investments Limited, from 2014 through 2017.
Her six votes allegedly benefiting the Batmasians were uncontroversial, and all but one of the matters received unanimous or near-unanimous City Council approval.
The vote that made a difference came in an appeal to the City Council of a Community Appearance Board denial of two signs. The council reversed the advisory board’s decision by a 3-2 vote on Jan. 10, 2017, with Haynie in the majority.
The Florida Ethics Commission in October 2018 found probable cause that Haynie violated state ethics laws in eight instances, and that she failed to disclose income, acted to financially benefit herself and her husband, and improperly voted on matters that benefited the Batmasians without disclosing a conflict of interest.
That ethics case is pending resolution of the criminal case.
The evidence gathered against Haynie by investigators for the state and for the county and state ethics commissions is similar. One key difference is that while state prosecutors determined that Haynie voted on six matters that financially benefited the Batmasians from 2014 through 2017, state ethics investigators found 17 votes between 2012 and 2016.
Jerry Lower contributed to this story.