No fewer than 27 aviators violated flight restriction zones during the first three weekends President Donald Trump was at his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago estate, the Federal Aviation Administration has confirmed.
The breakdown: 10 on Feb. 3-5, three on Feb. 10-12, and 14 on Feb. 17-20, the long Presidents Day weekend.
They ban most operations at the Lantana airport and impose strict limits at other Palm Beach County airports that include requiring small plane pilots be cleared by authorities at other airports before they fly in.The restrictions have effectively shut down the Lantana airport’s estimated 200 daily operations.
Trump, then president-elect, spent the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays at Mar-a-Lago, and has come three of his first weekends as president; he skipped this past weekend but plans to return this coming weekend.
The Secret Service said early on it would revisit the restrictions after it’s seen how a few weekends went, but hasn’t acted — or commented — since.
The U.S. Coast Guard has been asked about marine interdictions for violations of its zones, but, unlike the FAA, said that information must go through a Freedom of Information Act request, a process that will take weeks or months.
With President Donald Trumplikely to return to Mar-a-Lago on Friday for a third consecutive weekend, a state legislator has asked Gov. Rick Scott, who calls himself a long time friend Trump to “intercede any way u can” with the president in hopes of getting the Secret Service to tweak flight restrictions local aviation firms say might be running them out of business.
The Lantana airport is effectively shut down by the Secret Service during Trump’s visits to Palm Beach.
“While the safety of our President is the first and foremost concern of all citizens, I am hopeful that you will recognize the value and importance of maintaining jobs and the economic engine that helps fuel Palm Beach County, which in turn helps our entire state,” Rep. Lori Berman,. D-Lake Worth, whose district includes the Lantana Airport, wrote in a letter dated Wednesday. Her office hand-delivered it to Gov. Scott’s office in Tallahassee.
“Without the consideration of a slightly loosened TFR, our community will continue to feel these adverse effects on our local economy,” Berman wrote. “The potential loss of quality jobs to our area is too great to ignore.”
“TFRs” are temporary flight restrictions.
The Palm Beach Post has asked Scott’s office at least twice in recent weeks if he’ll intervene with Trump, but the office has provided responses unrelated to the question.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner, a Democrat whose district includes the airport, wrote his own letter Wednesday to the Secret Service, listing some of the proposed tweaks, which include a “corridor” allowing planes to come and go to the west and southwest, a plan they believe would not threaten the president’s security.
“The security TFR procedure presently in place will most certainly close the closure of several small businesses” at the airport, Kerner wrote, “and affect the livelihood and lives of thousands of Americans.”
Berman and Kerner agreed to draft their letter during a meeting Monday at the airport, organized by U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, to talk to anxious businesses.
The businesses say Trump’s past two weekend stays have cost them tens of thousands of dollars, and their customers, worried about continued visits, already have fled to other airports. One business, the maintenance firm Palm Beach Aircraft Services, says it could lose at least $2 million a year in gross revenue.
Jonathan Miller, part-owner of the “fixed base” operator at the airport, said Thursday businesses estimated $30,000 in losses the first two visits and project $45,000 in losses during the upcoming long Presidents Day weekend..
Presidential visits to Palm Beach County are not unusual, with former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all making multiple visits for fundraisers, golf outings and campaign appearances. But those visits did not involve extended, and frequent, stays, as is the case with Trump.
Businesses at the Lantana airport had a message for Lois Frankel to take to President Donald Trump: you’re putting us out of business.
At a meeting Monday at the airport, about two dozen people who own or operate businesses there told U.S. Rep. Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, that two straight weekend of stays by the president at his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago compound have cost them thousands of dollars, and customers worried about continued visits already have fled to other airports.
And a collective groan went up when Palm Beach County Airports Director Bruce Pelly said he’d heard — unconfirmed — what most have suspected for a while; that Trump will take advantage of the long President’s Day weekend and make it a third straight weekend.
The business people told Frankel, and she said so as well, that they understand the need to protect the president while he’s here. Pelly said he and the businesses, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration, have suggested tweaks to the temporary flight restrictions which would let planes come and go to the west and southwest, letting them operate while keeping Trump safe. So far, the Secret Service hasn’t budged, saying it wanted to see how the first visit or two went before making any changes.
Frankel asked the businesses, as well as Pelly and Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner — whose district includes the airport — to assemble a package she could take to the Secret Service. She said she’ll also reach out to the White House to ask that it lobby the Secret Service to make accommodations for the airport, listed as the 10th busiest “general aviation” air facility in the nation.
State Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, whose legislative district includes the airport, said she’ll craft a letter to Gov. Rick Scott asking if he also can call on Trump, a longtime friend, to lobby the Secret Service. The Palm Beach Post posed that question to Scott last week but he did not answer it.
The 4th District Court of Appeal has upheld a judge’s tossing of a suit by a Palm Tran passenger saying he fell when the bus driver slammed on his brakes.
Altimon Palmer, in a suit filed Nov. 3, 2014, alleged that on the day before Christmas in 2013, he was boarding Palm Tran bus 716, heading down Congress Avenue in West Palm Beach, when the driver braked hard and Palmer fell.
In a memo Thursday to county commissioners, County Attorney Denise Nieman said county lawyers argued the Palm Tran bus was cut off and “there could be no negligence on the part of the bus driver under those circumstances.” She said lawyers for Palmer “argued that the issue of negligence should be left to a jury.”
On March 9, 2016, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo granted the county’s motion to dismiss, saying “there are no genuine issues of fact.” Palmer’s lawyers appealed, and on Wednesday, the appeals court upheld the dismissal without comment, according to documents.
Attorney Nicholas Russo, whose West Palm Beach firm represented Palmer, in both the original case and the appeal, said Friday he’ll formally ask the appeals court for a rehearing.
“We think the case law out there is pretty clear that the ruling by the trial court should have been overruled,” Russo said.
Business have reported some $250,000 in losses — with several not yet reporting — just from the president’s first visit last weekend. With Trump set to return again today for a weekend that includes talks with the prime minister of Japan, some firms have said repeated Trump visits could run them out of business.
Airport officials have stressed it is the Secret Service, not Trump, which imposed the restrictions. They all acknowledged the need to protect the president and said they recognize the Secret Service can’t afford to be 95 percent right. But they’ve said publicly, and in correspondence with both the Secret Service and the White House, that they hope the agency will find ways to both protect Trump and avoid harming businesses. Officials also have called on Trump himself to lobby the Secret Service.
Also invited: private aircraft owner Kelly Gottlieb; Florida Aero Paint manager Chris Cura; Palm Beach Helicopters owner Dan Crowe; Palm Beach Flight Training owner Marian Smith; Skywords Advertising owner Jorge Gonzalez; a representative of Sarasota Avionics; private aircraft owner Phil Valente; and Palm Beach Aircraft Services owner Dave Johnson, who also chairs the airport’s advisory board and is local representative to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which represents small plane owners nationwide.
Frankel’s scheduled to talk to reporters following the meeting.
The first visit by new President Donald Trump cost aviation-related businesses at Lantana Airport an estimated $50,000 this past weekend alone, and with Trump reportedly making another visit next weekend, a flight school that’s the airport’s biggest tenant already is looking to leave Palm Beach County, an airport manager said this week.
It’s not just this past weekend; “the question is ‘how many of those 3-day periods do you have?”” Jonathan Miller, CEO of Stellar Aviation, said late Monday.
By edict of the U.S. Secret Service, any time the president is at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, a series of flight restrictions are put in place. They’re much stronger than those in effect when Trump visited while president-elect, and effectively shut down the Lantana airport.
County Airport’s chief Bruce Pelly said late Monday that, with Air Force One having gone wheels up just hours earlier, it was too early to get a handle on the impact of the flight restrictions.
Bruce Pelly did say that he’s had no reports that any aircraft violated the concentric 1-mile, 10-mile and 30-mile restriction zones around what Trump has called his “winter White House.”
Pelly said he’s “still trying to get a head count” on flights that came through the area after getting security clearances at “gateway airports.”
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.
The four items will be reduced to 8.6 percent, from $1.076 million to $92,290.
Code enforcement officials have stressed that dramatic reductions are the norm; that the ultimate goal isn’t to collect a big penalty but to get people in compliance.
The four items:
Property in West Palm Beach owned by Marcos Acevedo was hit with three code enforcement liens of September 2008, August 2010 and September 2010 for various maintenance violations. A lien grew to $786,531 as of Dec. 9. Settled for $50,000 (6.4 percent).
A shopping center near Palm Springs owned by South Military Trail LLC was cited for landscaping issues and draconian “hat-racking” trimming of trees after the 2004 hurricanes. A lien grew to $128,812 as of Nov. 15. Settled for $6,675 (5.2 percent) with a ban on the center operating a cocktail lounge or selling alcohol between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Ramsey Bulkeley, deputy director of Planning, Zoning and Building, which oversees code enforcement, said El Toro Loco, a night club at the center, was for years the site of numerous incidents of violence and crime.
Property near Palm Beach International Airport that’s owned by Florida Land & Timber Corp. was cited for exotic pest trees, standing dead trees and trash dating to 2005. A lien grew, with interest, to $117,634 as of Nov. 9. settled for $20,665 (17.6 percent).
Property in Lake Worth owned by Carmella Daut and Jean Rene Pierre-Louis was cited for installing a porch without proper permits. Liens grew to $43,348 as of Jan. 3. Settled for $14,950 (34.5 percent).