Article Courtesy of The
Palm Beach Post
By Hannah Winston
Published April 8, 2021
WEST PALM BEACH — The former Boca Raton mayor who was
charged with public corruption for her financial ties to two of the
city's largest commercial landowners pleaded guilty to misdemeanor
charges Thursday morning.
Susan Haynie pleaded guilty to misuse of public office and failure to
disclose voting conflicts, both first-degree misdemeanors, before
Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen.
In an apology letter, Haynie said the
residents of Boca Raton "should accept nothing less than the
highest level of ethics from their elected officials."
"I failed to live up to that standard and today accepted
responsibility by entering my guilty plea," she wrote.n
accepting the plea, prosecutors dropped the four felony
charges that Haynie faced, including three counts of
As part of her plea, the 65-year-old will serve no time in
jail, be fined $1,050 in addition having to pay to court
costs and be on probation for 12 months. During her year of
probation, she may not seek elected office and must complete
100 hours of community service.
A 2017 Palm Beach Post investigation discovered that Haynie failed to
report income from James and Marta Batmasian on her state disclosure
Haynie and her husband, Neil, collected thousands of dollars from the
Batmasians through their property management firm, Community Reliance,
while she was mayor, and Haynie voted on at least a dozen proposals that
increased the Batmasians' property values.
Five months after The Post's investigation revealed Haynie's financial
ties to the influential couple, the mayor was arrested. Haynie, a
Republican who held elected office in Boca Raton for more than a decade,
was charged with four felonies, including the three counts of official
misconduct and a count of perjury, and the additional misdemeanor of
misuse of an official position.
Investigators said Haynie falsified her state financial disclosure forms
in 2014, 2015 and 2016, failing to report more than $330,000 in
earnings, and allegedly lied under oath to county ethics investigators
about her financial ties. Investigators said about a third of that
income came from the Batmasians.
Haynie's case was scheduled to go to trial in March 2020, but it was
pushed back to the summer a month prior due to scheduling issues. In the
following weeks, coronavirus restrictions shut down jury trials for more
than eight months.
Defense attorney Bruce Zimet said the plea was in everyone's best
interest and noted the most serious charges against his client were
"Susan’s Haynie’s vote was never for sale or purchase. She was never
involved in any corruption or misconduct whatsoever,” he said when
reached by telephone Thursday.
David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor and now a defense attorney,
said some of the most difficult things to prove in public corruption
cases are the quid-pro-quos. Did a favor or money directly influence how
an official voted, or was it unrelated entirely?
"One of the other difficulties of both sides is people have an idea on
how they think their elected officials should ethically operate," said
Weinstein, who represented former Palm Beach County commissioner Tony
Masilotti after he pleaded guilty to federal honest-service fraud.
He said that though the state would have liked a conviction and the
defense would have liked an outright acquittal in Haynie's case, a
resolution was easier to reach now, given the remaining uncertainty of
returning to a more regular schedule of jury trials as the coronavirus
"A good deal is where you’re unhappy on both sides," he said.
For Haynie and politicians who have had similar situations, he said
their public-service careers are over because there is too much
skepticism that comes in the wake of accusations, let alone a guilty
plea or a jury conviction.
"(Other politicians) get tainted by this because people look at them and
say politicians are for the taking and you can’t believe a word they
say," he said.
Weinstein said it's another reason voters need to do research before
casting their ballots.
In her apology, Haynie wrote that even once the conditions of her
probation are completed, she does not plan to seek public office.
When asked about what Haynie plans to do in the future, Zimet said she's
taking everything one year at a time. But, he reiterated her apology
letter's message and said she has no interest in running for public
office in the near future.
"I think she’s had enough of a taste of Palm Beach County politics," he