Ethics Palm Beach County Commission Style
Adele Greene is back in the news. An ethics complaint has been filed against the Palm Beach County Commissioner last week. It alleged Ms. Greene took a $8 million bribe, all so she would vote to place the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter instead of Boca Raton.
Undecided until the day of the pivotal Feb. 14 vote, Greene chose to move The Scripps Research Institute's Florida campus to Jupiter's Abacoa development after hearing an impassioned speech from Abacoa developer George de Guardiola.
De Guardiola said he had assembled $5 million in pledges to fund a foundation to advance the minority business and education issues of Greene's choice.
The town of Jupiter pledged another $3 million to promote related economic development, especially in underserved areas.
Scripps Research and where it would be headquartered has been a hot political issue in Palm Beach County for the best part of three years. Four sites in different parts of the county had been candidates, and our county commission spent two years squabbling over the choice.
Then Adele Greene's vote in February decided the matter. Greene who lives in Delray Beach and who represents voters in Southern Palm Beach County voted for a North County site for Scripps.
Did Greene have 8 million reasons to make this decision? The Palm Beach Post has surprisingly danced around this issue but the Sun-Sentinel was much more blunt last month. (Unfortunately their editorials are archived.) The 8 million in grants looks and smells like a political quid pro quo to me and should to most any sensible person. The 8 million doesn't go to Greene, but she decides who will get it. That combined with her vote sounds like a political deal to me. How about you? Unbeleivably this deal was done in public, not behind closed doors. Our State Attorney(an elected official and former Knucklehead winner) appears to give his blessing. What an act of blindess!
Trying to prove this for an ethics complaint is another thing. A complaint could lead
to nothing or to the ouster of Adele Greene and the contract between the county and Scripps being thrown out. My own view of the matter is the later is warranted but unlikely to happen. Greene is a horrible politician who I've written about before, but I'm betting some lawyers will be able to spin this stinker of a deal into some kind of fine at most.
Just another reason to remain cynical and untrusting when it comes to politicians.
Open Post- Uncooperative Blogger, Wizbang, Stop the ACLU, Bright and Early,
"I just thought the vote was pretty troubling," said Russell Yeager, 30, a public relations professional. "The appearance is that a private developer can swing the county commission based on what in essence would appear to be a bribe."
Greene, reached at her home in Mangonia Park Saturday, shrugged off the complaint.
"Tell him to get in line," she said. "I have more important things to talk about."
In his complaint, submitted Monday, Yeager accuses Greene of violating three sections of Florida's code of ethics for public employees: soliciting a gift, taking unauthorized compensation and misusing public office.
The complaint asks the Florida Commission on Ethics and the attorney general to void any contract between Palm Beach County, Scripps and any other party as a result of the vote.
The commission handles such complaints through a three-step process: First, it looks for legal sufficiency; next, it assesses whether there's probable cause that the law was broken; finally, it can hold a public hearing.
Tallahassee attorney Mark Herron, who often represents elected officials before the ethics commission, said the remedy for a violation can include fines or removal from office.
In the Scripps case, it might open the door for someone in Greene's district or someone affected by the project to sue to have contracts thrown out. Yeager said he lives in Greene's district, which is mostly east of Interstate 95, from Lake Park south to Linton Avenue in Delray Beach.
"As a general rule, you don't get a redo, but in certain instances any contract entered into as a result of the vote is voidable," said Herron, an attorney with Messer, Caparello & Self.
Scripps and Palm Beach County have a contract to build the biotechnology campus about 12 miles west of Abacoa on the former Mecca Farms orange grove.
But they are abandoning that plan after a federal judge's ruling made it difficult to finish it on time.
Following the Valentine's Day vote, they are negotiating a new contract to put Scripps' first phase in Abacoa and its later growth across the street on the Briger tract in Palm Beach Gardens.
Greene said she hadn't seen the complaint but stands by her decision to base her vote on which proposal was most beneficial to the black community.
She said she's been meeting with attorneys to make sure she correctly and legally disburses the money for minority businesses and programs.
Mike Edmondson, executive assistant to State Attorney Barry Krischer, said he's worked with Greene and one of her advisers on a volunteer basis to help them meet the requirements of the law.
"I spent about 15 years working with not-for-profits and charitable groups, so I have a great deal of background with 501(c)(3)s. I offered my assistance in whatever her efforts were there, simply to help her with the process," Edmondson said. "I spoke with her as a private citizen more than willing to help her, but not in my capacity with the state attorney."
Greene said she failed to understand the controversy.