Boca Raton: New judge to set suspended mayor’s trial date

By Mary Hladky

Attorneys are still aiming for suspended Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie to go to trial in October on public corruption charges, but no date was set at an April 15 court hearing.

Palm Beach Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen will take over the case from Judge Glenn Kelley, and both Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes and Haynie’s criminal defense attorney Bruce Zimet asked to allow Gillen to set the trial date.

The next status check on Haynie’s case will be on July 15.

“We are shooting for an October trial date,” Zimet said after the brief hearing.

He also reiterated that no plea deal is in the works.

“Innocent people don’t have plea bargains,” he 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.

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.

Former 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 expires next March.

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 and her husband 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 also investigated Haynie regarding votes on matters that financially benefited Batmasian. It 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 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 against Haynie by the three agencies is similar. One key difference is that while local prosecutors determined Haynie voted on four matters that financially benefited Batmasian from 2014 through 2017, state ethics investigators found 17 such votes between 2012 and 2016. 

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