Ex-Boca mayor pleads guilty in public corruption case over financial ties to real estate tycoon

Guilty plea is on two misdemeanor charges

James and Marta Batmasian with former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie (Investments Unlimited)
James and Marta Batmasian with former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie (Investments Unlimited)

Former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie pleaded guilty to charges related to failure to disclose financial ties to real estate tycoon James Batmasian while she was in office.

Investigators said Haynie didn’t report more than $330,000 in earnings, with about a third of that from James and Marta Batmasian, who are major commercial property owners in Boca Raton, The Palm Beach Post reported.

Haynie, 65, entered her guilty plea on Thursday in front of Palm Beach Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen for two first-degree misdemeanors, one for misuse of public office and another for failure to disclose voting conflicts, according to The Post. Prosecutors dropped four felony charges for three counts of official misconduct and a count of perjury.

Haynie will not serve time in jail, but will be on probation for 12 months, during which time she is prohibited from seeking public office. She also is to pay a $1,050 fine and court costs, and complete 100 hours of community service.

Haynie is alleged to have received thousands of dollars from the Batmasians while casting votes in the family’s favor, including on issues that increased their property values, The Post reported.

Investigators also alleged she falsified financial disclosure forms from 2014 to 2016, and lied under oath to county ethics investigators about her financial ties.

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Haynie’s attorney, Bruce Zimet, told The Post her vote “was never for sale or purchase.”

The former mayor said in a letter apologizing to residents that through her guilty plea, she accepted responsibility. Residents “should accept nothing less than the highest level of ethics from their elected officials,” she said in the letter, adding she failed to meet this standard, according to The Post.

Haynie, who held elected office for more than a decade, added she doesn’t plan to seek public office again.

James Batmasian has had his own run-ins with the law. In 2008 he served eight months in prison for not paying $250,000 in payroll taxes to the IRS. Former President Donald Trump in December pardoned Batmasian along with 26 others.

Among his most recent ventures in Boca Raton was the $16 million purchase of Publix-anchored West Boca Plaza at 22973-23071 State Road 7.

[The Palm Beach Post] — Lidia Dinkova