Incumbent helps himself to opponent’s stash of chocolates
By Joe Capozzi
The pile of free chocolate bars would have been an enticing sight for most anyone passing through the lobby of the Dune Deck condominium in South Palm Beach that afternoon.
For one resident, Town Councilman Mark Weissman, the candy was particularly irresistible — and not because of a sweet tooth for Hershey’s, Krackel and Mr. Goodbar.
Each bite-size bar came with a custom-made red, white and blue wrapper with the words “Vote Cindy Furino” on one side and “A Vote For Me Is A Vote For Loyalty, Honesty and Integrity” on the other.
Furino, who also lives at the Dune Deck, is Weissman’s opponent in the March 8 election, which begins to explain the sequence of events that sent Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies to the Dune Deck lobby on the afternoon of Feb. 4 to investigate, of all things, the alleged theft of a bowl of candy.
Some residents said it was just the latest example of problems under Weissman’s watch that prompted condo residents to vote on Feb. 25 to remove him from the board.
“This is petty behavior for someone who has fiduciary responsibility for the town’s budget,” said Jane Ruby, one of 65 condo owners. “It is grossly unbecoming to someone who wants to maintain his position as an elected official.”
The recall vote was to be reviewed by the board on March 3, but it might not be necessary because Weissman, at a special meeting on March 1, resigned as condo board president.
Weissman told The Coastal Star he stepped down because of “constant harassment” from Furino and about five other residents who have objected to condo repairs that he says are necessary for the structural integrity of the building.
Weissman said his opponents have also accused him of financial mismanagement, which he dismissed by saying he and board members “don’t touch money” because the condo’s management company handles the finances.
Ruby, Furino and others also accused Weissman of harassing residents and questioned his temperament. At the March 1 meeting, a deputy intervened when a shouting match ensued between Weissman and a board member seated next to him who claimed Weissman called him a curse word.
The candy caper was the last straw.
At 12:15 p.m. Feb. 4, not long after Furino set the candy in a bowl by the security guard’s desk on her way to lunch, Weissman entered the lobby and helped himself to not just one or two pieces but all of it.
With both hands, Weissman emptied the bowl, deposited its contents into his pockets and walked toward the elevator. He paused, turned around and returned to fetch the clear plastic bowl, according to video of the incident reviewed by two deputies.
When Furino returned from lunch two hours later, she asked the doorman why the candy bowl was missing. The doorman said Weissman took it, according to the PBSO report.
Furino called the cops.
Reports of theft or vandalism of campaign signs are not uncommon before elections. But stolen campaign candy?
Deputies showed up at the Dune Deck and, before reviewing security video, asked Weissman what happened.
Weissman told them “he was aware of the bowl’s removal but would not state if he was involved in it,’’ a report said.
But in an interview, he admitted he took the bowl of chocolate. He said he did so because the lobby is supposed to be a political-free zone where campaign literature, whether on a pamphlet, a mailer or candy wrapper, is prohibited.
“We don’t allow politicking in the building. I’m the president. I removed them from the front desk,’’ said Weissman, who said he’d even removed his own campaign mailers from the lobby bulletin board, presumably posted by residents checking their mail.
If that’s the case, Furino said, he should have removed the candy-filled bowl and taken it to her condo. “But he stole it. He put it in his pockets, and he has a big sweet tooth so we know he ate it,’’ she said.
Although Weissman confessed to having an occasional sweet tooth, he denied stealing or eating Furino’s candy. He said he put the campaign chocolates and bowl in the lobby’s kitchen where Furino kept a backup supply of her campaign candy.
“She had the whole kitchen tied up with bowls full of candy that she wanted the doorman, at the condominium owners’ expense, to continue replenishing for her,’’ he said.
After a brief investigation, Sgt. Mark Garrison and Deputy David Hul declined to press charges. The incident was classified “a civil issue since the candy and bowl had been left in a common area with no instruction,’’ a PBSO report said.
“Even though social convention would normally limit a person to one or a few pieces,’’ Hul wrote in his report, “we made it clear there was nothing to stop one person from taking the whole bowl.’’
Furino said she spent $600 on the candy, which she placed in plastic bowls in at least three other condo lobbies in South Palm Beach without incident.
While she was shocked to learn from the Dune Deck’s doorman that Weissman took the candy, more upsetting, she said, was PBSO’s decision not to charge Weissman with a crime.
“They basically just blew me off, like I was being ridiculous because he took my candy,’’ she said. “It’s not petty. It just shows his character.’’
Weissman, a former state representative and former Parkland city commissioner, laughed when told about Furino’s response.
“I’ve served in public office for 20 years,’’ he said. “I’ll survive with my character.’’