Published On: Sat, Nov 3rd, 2018

It’s Still Possible for Former Mayor Haynie to Return

By: Michael Demyan

Scott Singer may have been voted as Boca Raton’s mayor following Susan Haynie’s suspension, but if she was to ever be acquitted from her felony charges, she could actually have the ability to reclaim her former position.

In the evening hours of April 24, Mayor Susan Haynie was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail, charged with three counts of official misconduct, perjury in an official proceeding, misuse of public office, corrupt misuse of public office and failure to disclose a voting conflict.

Things got worse for her after that. Three days later, she was suspended by Gov. Rick Scott and her plans to run in the commissioner race were over. Singer took over on an interim basis, but after the special election in September, he was officially sworn in as Boca Raton’s mayor until the end of Haynie’s original term.

Residents might have voted for a new mayor, however, Haynie never actually resigned from office, which does leave a door open for her to return.

This type of situation has not been uncommon in South Florida. Former Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper was arrested on felony charges in January after serving as the city’s mayor since 2003. A day later, she was suspended by Gov. Scott.

She has since pleaded not guilty to the charges and like Haynie, is hoping to clear her name. One person who has successfully undergone that process recently though is former Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi.

Pizzi was arrested on corruption charges in August 2013 after a two-year investigation, but just over a year later, he was found not guilty. His attorneys almost immediately called Gov. Scott to get him reinstated as the Miami Lakes mayor, but his reinstatement did not go as quickly as they would have hoped.

Haynie has been suspended since April 27

Gov. Scott refused to lift Pizzi’s suspension, even though Florida Statute 112.51(6) states that “If the municipal official is acquitted or found not guilty or is otherwise cleared of the charges which were the basis of the arrest, indictment, or information by reason of which he or she was suspended under the provisions of this section, then the Governor shall forthwith revoke the suspension and restore such municipal official to office.”

Pizzi filed a lawsuit as a result, in order to force the governor to reinstate him to his former position. The Florida Supreme Court sided with Pizzi in December 2014, but even after he won the lawsuit, Gov. Scott still did not reinstate him. Pizzi followed that up with a reinstatement lawsuit, which was ruled in his favor in March 2015.

What complicates a possible return to office for Haynie, however, is that the Florida Commission on Ethics released a report on last month stating that she violated ethics laws eight times. Five of those instances involved filing inaccurate financial disclosure forms from 2012-2016.

The commission also stated that probable cause was found “to believe she voted on matters she knew would inure to the special private gain or loss of herself, her husband, or business associates and principals.”

Haynie could be fined up to $10,000 by the commission and they are able to recommend her permanent removal from office, but she does plan to fight the allegations by asking for an evidentiary hearing with the commission.

Haynie’s attorney Bruce Zimet filed a motion earlier this year for the criminal charges against the former mayor to be dropped. That motion was dismissed in September by Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley, meaning Haynie will need to go to trial, which has not yet been scheduled.

Zimit appeared in court on Oct. 26 without Haynie, as she does not need to attend any of the hearings which precede her trial. Judge Kelley scheduled another hearing for Jan. 15, which could finally lead to a date being set.

If Haynie is found guilty of any of the charges against her during the trial, Singer will continue as Boca Raton’s mayor, however, if she is acquitted before her original term ends in March 2020, Haynie will have an opportunity to sit in the mayor’s seat again.

About the Author

- Michael Demyan is the associate editor and reporter for The Boca Raton Tribune. He is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University where he received a degree in Multimedia Journalism. Twitter: @michaeldemyan

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