By Tim Pallesen
The Caron Foundation wants coastal Delray Beach residents to testify how they blocked Caron’s attempt to house recovering addicts and alcoholics near the ocean.
Caron attorney Jim Green told a federal judge in April that trial testimony will reveal a “a hostile and organized community reaction to our attempt to locate in an affluent area near the ocean.”
Court papers show Caron has listed 72 potential witnesses in its federal discrimination lawsuit against the city. Many of the witnesses live near a Seaspray Avenue house where Caron wants to house seven patients in recovery.
Green wants to know the role that one particular neighbor — former County Commissioner Mary McCarty — played in organizing opposition to sober houses.
Green said he discovered McCarty’s involvement when examining emails between neighbors and city officials.
“Mary McCarty is a smart lady who has not always been on the right side of truth, justice and the law,” Green said.
McCarty has avoided the spotlight since her release from federal prison last year. She was sentenced in 2009 to 3½ years in prison after she pleaded guilty to a federal felony count of honest services fraud.
Ray Jones, an opposition leader who lives across the street from Caron’s controversial Seaspray Avenue house, said he’s ready to testify.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Jones said when informed that he is on Caron’s witness list. “It’s all about getting to the truth.”
Jones said McCarty hasn’t actively opposed Caron.
“She is on our email list and might have made a comment or two,” he said. “But she hasn’t been actively involved in this.”
Green traces McCarty’s opposition to sober houses back to 2007 when, as a county commissioner, she opposed giving $9.5 million in health care revenue bonds to Caron to build treatment facilities and offices in Delray Beach and Boca Raton.
“She has a long history of agitating against people in recovery,” Green said.
Green sued the county on Caron’s behalf after the 2007 denial, quoting McCarty in that lawsuit as saying she didn’t want Delray Beach to be known as “the drug rehab capital of the world.”
McCarty didn’t respond to phone messages seeking comment.
Caron filed its federal lawsuit in February after Delray Beach commissioners approved ordinances to make it more difficult for treatment providers to operate in residential neighborhoods.
Caron’s legal team has reviewed 50,000 documents so far to prepare for its trial against the city, Green said.
Caron also spent $27,788 to get 200,000 emails that have been sent or received by 16 city officials since 2007 to learn who has said what to whom to restrict sober housing.
“We’re trying to uncover backroom communications between the political machine and elected officials to determine the true intent of the city’s ordinances,” Caron executive vice president Andrew Rothermel said in March.
Caron also notified 40 coastal residents on May 11 that their communications will be sought as evidence for trial.
“These people have been vocal opponents of my client and its patients and appear to be willing to do anything and say anything,” Green said.
The Caron witness list includes 45 families who live near planned sober houses at 1232 Seaspray Ave. and 740 N. Ocean Blvd.
Also named as witnesses are Beach Property Owners Association officers Mary Renaud, Andy Katz, Anne Bright, Virginia Courtney and three others.
Kristine de Haseth, chairwoman of the Florida Coalition for Preservation, also will be a witness along with seven current and former city commissioners and five planning and zoning board members.
The store manager for Tiffany’s on Worth Avenue will testify that Delray coastal residents asked him to “steer clear” of sponsoring Caron’s annual fund-raising gala in Palm Beach, court papers say.
Mayor Woodie McDuffie and Planning and Zoning Board chairman Cary Glickstein are expected to be key Caron witnesses after federal Judge William Dimitrouleas criticized them in an April order for making comments against recovering addicts and alcoholics.
Dimitrouleas said then that Caron has shown “a substantial likelihood of success at trial in demonstrating that the city has discriminated.”
Federal laws prohibits housing discrimination against recovering addicts and alcoholics.
Caron plans to charge $55,000 a month to each of the seven recovering addicts who it hopes will occupy each of Caron’s two high-end sober houses near the ocean.
Attorneys defending the city against Caron’s lawsuit in court papers named seven planning and zoning board members, five city employees, seven Caron employees and a Jupiter private planner as their trial witnesses.
Dimitrouleas has not set a trial date.
By Tim Pallesen