The Coastal Star

Boca Raton: New evidence introduced against Haynie

By Mary Hladky

A prosecutor has introduced new evidence showing that suspended Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie cast a another vote that potentially benefited the city’s largest downtown commercial landowner.

Haynie was arrested on April 24, 2018, on charges of official misconduct, perjury, misuse of public office and failure to disclose voting conflicts. She faces more than 20 years in prison.

The charging documents stated that Haynie used her position on the City Council to vote on four matters that benefited James Batmasian and failed to disclose income she received from him.

New discovery filed by the state in June shows a fifth instance in which Haynie cast a vote on a Batmasian request.

Batmasian wanted to build eight townhomes on 1.1 acres at 101 Pine Circle, a couple of blocks west of City Hall. He sought city permission to rezone the property to allow 9.5 units per acre rather than the existing zoning of five units per acre and to abandon a 10-foot public utility easement, according to city documents.

The Planning and Zoning Board unanimously recommended approval on Aug. 20, 2015, and the City Council unanimously granted approval two months later, on Oct. 27.

After several neighbors expressed concerns about traffic safety on the street, Haynie proposed adding a condition aimed at improving safety, which other council members supported.

Batmasian bought the property for $737,000 in 2012 and sold it for $1.5 million in 2016, county property records show. The townhomes were never built.

Batmasian’s request generated no controversy at the time.

Haynie’s criminal defense attorney, Bruce Zimet, declined to comment on the new discovery, filed by Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes, after a brief July 15 court hearing on her case.

No trial date was set at the hearing, but attorneys are aiming to go to trial in October or November on the public corruption charges. The next hearing on the status of the case will be Sept. 10.

“She is engaged and anxious to be vindicated,” Zimet said.

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.

Then-Gov. Rick Scott suspended her from office, but she has not resigned. Scott Singer was elected mayor on Aug. 28 for the remainder of Haynie’s term, which ends in March 2020.

Before Haynie’s arrest, the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics, which also investigated allegations she voted 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, but that case is pending resolution of the criminal case.

The state commission, which also probed Haynie’s financial links to Batmasian and his company 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 evidence gathered by the three agencies is similar. One key difference is that while prosecutors originally determined Haynie voted on four matters that financially benefited Batmasian from 2014 through 2017, state ethics investigators found 17 votes between 2012 and 2016. Ú

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