By Mary Hladky
Attorneys are still aiming for suspended Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie to go to trial in October or November on public corruption charges, but no date was set at a July 15 court hearing.
The next hearing on the status of the case will be on Sept. 10.
After the brief hearing, Bruce Zimet, Haynie’s criminal defense attorney, said she is ready for trial.
“She is engaged and anxious to be vindicated,” he said.
Zimet declined to comment on discovery recently filed by Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes, including city documents that show Haynie voted on a matter involving James Batmasian that was not cited in the charges filed against her last year.
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.
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.
Prosecutors contend in charging documents that Haynie used her position on the City Council to vote on four matters that financially benefited 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.
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 townhouses on 1.1 acres at 101 Pine Circle, a couple 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 town homes were never built.
Before Haynie’s arrest, the county Commission on Ethics, which also investigated her for voting on matters that financially benefited Batmasian, reached a settlement with her in which they reprimanded and fined Haynie for failing to disclose a conflict of interest but dismissed a second allegation that she misused her public office.
The state Commission on Ethics in October found probable cause that Haynie violated Florida 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 state 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.