By Jane Smith
Delray Beach Vice Mayor Ryan Boylston has agreed to pay $2,000 for violating state ethics laws over votes taken when he was a board member of a taxpayer-funded agency.
At the June 5 state Commission on Ethics meeting, commissioners plan to review a stipulation of facts concerning two ethics violations when Boylston was a board member of the city’s Downtown Development Authority. On April 10, he signed the stipulation, agreeing to the facts, to avoid a hearing.
Boylston was appointed in July 2011 to the DDA, which promotes downtown Delray Beach and taxes property owners in its 340-acre district.
The following year, 2012, he and others founded The Pineapple Newspaper, now known as the Delray Newspaper.
Boylston, whose DDA term ended in June 2017, insists he did not violate state ethics laws.
“I never voted to directly send advertising to my former newspaper,” Boylston said in mid-May. “It was up to the DDA staff to decide where to spend their advertising dollars.”
From 2014 through 2017, the DDA spent $22,710 on ads in Boylston’s newspaper.
When he announced he was running for city commissioner in October 2017, he stepped down as publisher of the Delray Newspaper. He sold his shares a few months later.
“I didn’t fight it,” he added. “The hearing was in Tallahassee and I would have had to hire an attorney to represent me. Then the COVID-19 lockdowns started and I was losing business.”
Boylston runs a marketing company, now called 2Ton, to help businesses with branding, advertising, web design and development, and photography and video production needs.
Martin Reeder, a media industry lawyer in West Palm Beach, had pointed out possible ethics violations by Boylston two years ago when he was running for a City Commission seat.
“We all want our public officials to abide by Florida ethics laws,” Reeder said recently.
Chris Davey, a residential real estate consultant, filed the complaint because “the citizens of Delray Beach deserve elected officials who act in their interests. … Ultimately, the $2,000 fines are a slap on the wrist, but the test will be next March when Boylston is up for re-election.”
Boylston became vice mayor at the commission’s March 31 reorganization meeting.
Davey said he knows the Florida ethics laws from his stint on the city’s Planning and Zoning Board and his current seat as chairman of the Board of Adjustments.
The state did not proceed on four other ethics complaints filed by Davey, who ran for a City Commission seat in March but lost.
The county Commission on Ethics said those alleged DDA violations occurred outside its time limit to investigate.
However, that agency issued a “letter of instruction” to Boylston on Feb. 6 over a vote last year for his client Azure Development. That complaint also was filed by Davey.
The letter agrees that Boylston relied on advice from the city attorney, “which ultimately was incorrect,” when the commissioner voted in May 2019 for an Azure project.
But the letter also told Boylston to take “reasonable precautions” on questions of voting conflicts in future situations.
They include asking the person “appearing before the City Commission if he or she has a financial interest in a project.”
Boylston sees the letter as basically “a suggestion on what to do in the future.”
Reeder, though, said, “It’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card. The next time, more of the burden will be on him.”