The commission found “no probable cause” that Commissioner Shelly Petrolia benefited by nominating a customer of her outside business to the city’s Site Plan and Review Board. According to a memo, on June 7, Petrolia nominated Cynthia Freeburn as one of seven applicants; Freeburn was not picked. The memo said Petrolia did not reveal she and her husband, real estate brokers and had sold Freeburn a home and recently had listed her current home for sale. But an ethics commission memo ruled the $8,885 the Petrolias earned from Freeburn did not meet a $10,000 minimum to constitute a code violation and that she received no direct benefit in exchange for nominating Freeburn.
The commission also found no probable cause that Kathryn McNealy used her official position to manipulate the time sheets of two department employees. A former supervisor alleged McNealy put in hours for two co-workers for time they did not work. But a memo said a commission investigation found no evidence of that and noted the complainant signed off on many of the questioned time sheets and that one of the workers actually ran out of vacation and leave time and accrued some 80 hours of unpaid leave.
“Those numbers show a true success for your office,” committee member Sarah Shullman told Carey. “You’re bringing the municipalities and county into compliance. We shouldn’t see an increase.”
In the budget year ending Sept. 30, Carey said in his update, his office found $5.7 million in questioned costs and $314,000 in potential cost savings. He said it made 14 referrals to law enforcement or the county or state commissions on ethics.
The panel, following an executive session of about an hour, voted to give Conor Devery a “letter of instruction.”
According to a staff memo, Devery, who with his wife owns the firm First Response Training, was approached for training services by officials from Delray Beach Fire-Rescue. The city eventually paid the firm $2,245 over three years.
The vote marks the third action by the ethics panel in response to inquiries from Delray Beach City Manager Donald Cooper following city audits.
In July, the commission ordered a similar “letter of instruction” for Desiree Lancaster, an ambulance billing contract supervisor who admitted steering about $12,000 in work in a pressure cleaning firm she and her husband own. The commission concluded this violation also was unintentional.
Disgraced former West Palm Beach fire marshal Derrick Daniels won’t face sanctions from the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics for shaking down residents, after the panel decided Thursday his 2015 criminal conviction was enough.
Daniels, who rose through the ranks during his two-decade career to become a battalion chief, was convicted in November of six charges of grand theft and one charge of unlawful compensation by a public official. Prosecutors said he went out on nights and weekends to check that groups holding special events were complying with fire-safety codes and pocketed some $3,000 over 10 months in 2012 and 2013.
Daniels faced a prison term of nearly three years. Instead, in December, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Dina Keever sentenced him to the 30 days he’d served, placed him on six months of house arrest, and ordered five years of probation and 100 hours of community service.
On Thursday, the ethics commission voted that “the public interest has already been served to the extensive sanctions levied by a criminal court.”
The commission issued a ruling of “no probable cause” after a 15-minute closed-door meeting.
City Manager Donald Cooper had written the commission May 19 to say an audit indicated the city had paid Tropical Landscaping a total $1,264 in 2012 and 2014 for the purchase of plants. The audit also showed records indicating Eaton was either an officer of the firm or its liaison with the city.
But both Eaton, who’s worked for the city since 2007, and the firm’s owners, said Eaton never had worked for the firm, and Eaton had received no money for the city for any work he would have done for Tropical.
Both Eaton and the firm said they had no idea why the payments showed up in city records. Eaton had gone so far as to file a police report in Palm Beach Gardens, where he lives, alleging identity theft.
The Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics Thursday opted to neither agree or disagree with other ethics commissions in Florida who oppose proposed new limits on public records requests. Legislation would let judges decide whether to award attorney fees in lawsuits seeking public records.
The law now requires judges to order a government to pay court costs and attorney fees if they find the government unlawfully refused access to a public record.
Executive director Mark Bannon noted Gulf Stream comes under the ethics panel’s jurisdiction, and said the Palm Beach County League of Cities has backed the legislation limiting the legal fees.
Also Thursday, the panel reappointed Chair Michael Kridel and Vice Chair Clevis Headley to additional 2-year posts. And ethics panel members Sarah Shullman and Michael Loffredo, both appointed after members resigned, were sworn in for additional 4-year terms on the board.
The ethics panel also introduced a new logo that shows the outline of Palm Beach County with the phrase “Honesty-Integrity-Character.””