By Dan Moffett
Gulf Stream town commissioners have unanimously voted to appeal a judge’s ruling that dismisses their federal racketeering lawsuit against residents Martin O’Boyle and Christopher O’Hare.
Commissioners also have agreed to continue their fight against O’Boyle and O’Hare in the state courts, where dozens of cases about public records disputes and other matters await resolution.
Mayor Scott Morgan says that U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Marra’s decision in June to throw out the town’s class-action RICO suit was not a validation of the two residents’ behavior and should not diminish Gulf Stream’s resolve, especially at the state level.
“Make no mistake. These people will be held to account for their actions,” Morgan said.
“We have not put all eggs in the RICO basket. In fact, our actions have been ongoing in the state cases, predating the RICO action, where we’ve had success.”
Taking the RICO case to the U.S. appellate court, Morgan says, will give the town’s lawyers a chance to argue that the federal statute should be expanded to consider the town’s allegations against O’Boyle and O’Hare.
“The judge is a trial judge,” Morgan said of Marra. “Trial judges do not make law. This is a case of first impression. That means there is no other case like this — not in Florida, not in the entire United States.”
Morgan said O’Boyle sent him a letter in July, urging commissioners to “have a sit-down” and enter into settlement negotiations. But Morgan said the town thought it ended the disputes with O’Boyle in 2013 when the two sides settled a lawsuit over the remodeling of his home. Within months, however, new issues arose, Morgan said, and O’Boyle filed a “new round” of lawsuits.
“A review of history is important,” Morgan said. “We’ve done this (settlement) before, and it cost the town an awful lot of money and embarrassment.”
The mayor said the town’s more recent attempts at finding a settlement “turned into threats, and banners and more litigation” from O’Boyle. Other commissioners agreed.
“I fully support your taking charge of this, and I think you’re handling it the right way,” Commissioner Joan Orthwein told the mayor during the July meeting. “I like your history of it. I think there’s no way we could ever settle again.”
“Amen,” said Vice Mayor Robert Ganger.
O’Hare told the commission he had no choice but to take his issues with the town to court.
“I don’t want to sound like Don Quixote, but there are democratic principles at stake,” O’Hare said. “The only way it seems to get those principles on line is by redress from the courts.”
O’Hare accused the town of mismanagement and wasting taxpayers’ money, with a newly minted budget proposal that sets aside $1 million for legal fees in the next fiscal year, including the RICO appeal.
“I could see the town’s millage rate going to 7.5,” O’Hare said.
Jonathan O’Boyle, Martin’s son and a director with the family’s law firm in Deerfield Beach, has said that the blame for the legal hostilities lies with the commissioners and the town’s managers.
“If the town were a corporation, the shareholders would demand to know how much this lawsuit cost, demand a refund, and replace management,” Jonathan O’Boyle said. “The taxpayers deserve personal refunds from their leaders.”
Morgan stands by the town’s RICO assertion that O’Boyle and O’Hare used public records to “intimidate and extort, by means of misleading and fraudulent behavior, money and changes in action from municipalities” in a conspiracy that reached across the state.