By Mary Hladky
Suspended Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie likely will go to trial in October on seven public corruption charges.
“We are progressing fairly well in the case,” Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes said.
Speaking after the hearing, Haynie’s criminal defense attorney, Bruce Zimet, said no plea deal is in the works. “We are going to trial,” he said, adding that Haynie is looking forward to being vindicated.
Haynie, 63, a fixture in Boca Raton politics for 18 years, did not appear at the hearing. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Haynie was arrested on April 24 on public corruption charges, including official misconduct, perjury, misuse of public office and failure to disclose voting conflicts. She faces more than 20 years in prison.
Former 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 benefited James Batmasian, the city’s largest downtown commercial landowner, and failed to disclose income she had received from him.
The investigation by the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office found that Haynie failed to report $335,000 in income on financial disclosure forms required by the state, including $84,000 from Batmasian or his company Investments Limited, from 2014 through 2017.
Before her arrest, the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics, which also investigated Haynie for voting on matters that financially benefited Batmasian, reached a settlement with her in which it reprimanded and fined her for failing to disclose a conflict of interest, but dismissed a second allegation that Haynie misused her public office.
The Florida Commission on Ethics in October found probable cause that Haynie violated state ethics laws in eight instances.
The state commission, which also probed Haynie’s financial links to Batmasian and Investments Limited, found that she failed to disclose income, acted to financially benefit herself and her husband and improperly voted on matters that benefited Batmasian and his wife, Marta, without disclosing a conflict of interest.
The probable cause findings are not a determination that Haynie violated state laws, but are a conclusion that there is enough evidence of violations to allow the investigation to proceed.
Zimet has said Haynie will seek an evidentiary hearing before the state commission. Her ethics attorney, Mark Herron, has not commented.
The state commission has the power to seek her removal from office, but that rarely happens. More typically, a public official is fined up to a maximum of $10,000 per violation.
The evidence gathered against Haynie by the three agencies is similar. One key difference is that while state prosecutors determined Haynie voted on four matters that financially benefited Batmasian from 2014 through 2017, state ethics investigators found 17 votes between 2012 and 2016.
State commission advocate Elizabeth A. Miller, an assistant attorney general, issued a stinging report to the commission in which she recommended that it find probable cause.
Haynie “consistently voted on measures benefiting the Batmasians and/or their affiliates between 2012 and 2016 while surreptitiously reaping the financial rewards of their business association,” she wrote.
“When confronted with the possibility of impropriety, (Haynie) consistently denied any association, involvement or knowledge. The bank account records revealed her deception. These acts and omissions indicate corrupt intent.”