Zucaro Faces Judgment, More Election News and Local Coco Gauff is a Champ

Al Zucaro

BocaWatch Publisher Al Zucaro, who is running for mayor in the Aug. 28 special election, faces a new effort to enforce a nine-year-old court judgment against him.

In 2009, Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Donald Hafele ordered Zucaro to repay $406,000 to an investor in Zucaro’s World Trade Management. Hafele said Zucaro used the money not for the business but for personal expenses. The amount was the $240,000 initial investment plus interest, which has had another decade to compound. The 4th District Court of Appeal upheld the judgment.

Zucaro said a year ago—when he ran for mayor the first time—that he and the investor, Joseph Della Ratta, had “discussed the terms of a settlement, and we plan on working it out amicably.” According to Della Ratta’s attorney, however, Zucaro has paid nothing.

So in March, the attorney—Bernard Lebedeker— issued a 12-point subpoena seeking tax returns and financial records over the last three years for Zucaro and any “entity” in which Zucaro has had “a legal or equitable interest.” The subpoena also seeks records regarding “the gift, sale, purchase or other transfer of any personal or real property to or from the entity” for a year before Della Ratta filed the lawsuit in October 2007.

In addition, the subpoena seeks “any documents to loans made” to Zucaro’s 2017 mayoral campaign and records of any income or gifts since 2015. For that unsuccessful campaign against Susan Haynie, Zucaro loaned himself $15,000 and wrote checks from himself for nearly $48,000—roughly $63,000 combined.

Zucaro’s filing papers for the Aug. 28 election show income from his law firm, Social Security and four business entities. According to state records, Zucaro and his wife, Yvonne Boice, are affiliated with the entities. Zucaro lives in his wife’s house.

A deposition in the Della Ratta case took place two weeks ago. Zucaro attended.

“No further action is scheduled at this time,” Zucaro said in an email. “I, of course, will respond appropriately when and if additional activity arises. I will have no further comment on this subject. End!”

Nothing might be “scheduled,” but things are still happening. Lebedeker said Zucaro “failed to bring several items” to the deposition. “We intend to move for sanction, and we will bring him back. We are going to be very aggressive. We will make him produce those documents.” Lebedeker also wants to depose Boice, because Zucaro has moved his business entities “into his wife’s name.”

Depending on how interest and legal fees are calculated, Lebedeker said, the judgment against Zucaro has increased to between $600,000 and $800,000.

“He can give his campaign money, but he can’t pay my client?” According to Lebedeker, Zucaro denied during the deposition that he had given his 2017 campaign money. Zucaro said, “My campaign reports clearly identify the source of the funds.”

If Zucaro doesn’t pay, Lebedeker said he could seek to place the BocaWatch publisher in involuntary bankruptcy. A judge could seize Zucaro’s assets and pay off creditors on a pro rata basis. “I think that’s where this is headed,” Lebedeker said. “He’s living in a fantasy world if he thinks he doesn’t have to repay this money.”

Meanwhile, Zucaro already has loaned his current campaign $3,500.

Mayoral candidates

In that special election, Zucaro is challenging Mayor Scott Singer, who had been deputy mayor when Gov. Rick Scott suspended Susan Haynie in late April.

The third candidate to qualify is Bernard Korn, who has never run for a city office. The only addresses for Bernard Korn on the property appraiser’s website are in West Boca, outside the city limits. Korn’s campaign paperwork also lists an address outside the city.

Currently, candidates for office in Boca Raton do not have to provide documentation that they are residents and thus eligible to run. The city council is considering a change that would add such a requirement.

Korn and I have traded voicemails. I will have an update when we speak.

Boca canal clearing

The latest canal clearing issue in Boca Raton concerns residents on the north side of Sabal Palm Lake in the Boca Raton Square neighborhood.

The Lake Worth Drainage District wants to remove all trees and structures from the L-49 Canal, which flows into the lake. Since Hurricane Irma, that agency and the South Florida Water Management District have been carrying out vigorous removal programs they justify as necessary to prevent blockages from debris and thus prevent flooding.

Linda Slate lives on Southwest Seventh Street—on the north side of the lake, where the canal opens up. She told me that previous canal work had stopped at her house. This time, the district intends to include her home and the 16 others to the west, all the way to Southwest 12th Avenue.

The work, Slate said, would reach to her patio. She worries that the heavy equipment could cause structural damage. She wonders why the district can carry out work on the lake when the city owns it. Slate has asked a lawyer to research the issue, but she has not retained counsel.

At Monday’s workshop meeting, Deputy City Manager George Brown said the district has proposed a compromise under which the district would clear only the first 20 feet from the lake, leaving a 20-foot swath for the homeowners. That may not be enough to satisfy them.

The city could challenge the clearing under its agreement with the district. Mayor Scott Singer and all the council members expressed support for the residents’ grievances. There may be more discussion at tonight’s regular council meeting.

A discussion of the L-49 project is on the agenda for the district’s meeting Wednesday at its headquarters on Military Trail west of Delray Beach. Slate plans to attend. So do her neighbors.

O’Rourke endorses Cottrell

Boca Raton City Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke essentially endorsed Kathy Cottrell for the open council seat in the Aug. 28 special election.

O’Rourke sent an email Monday touting Cottrell’s campaign kickoff Thursday at The Addison. Cottrell is expected to face three other candidates. Qualifying for the Seat A race ends at 5 p.m. today.

Mayotte comments

Monica Mayotte
Monica Mayotte

I wrote last week about Boca Raton’s coming decision on whether to outsource residential garbage pickup. In that report, I didn’t include comment from Councilwoman Monica Mayotte.

She wasn’t on the council a year ago, when the issue came up, but Mayotte will have to vote on it. The city is preparing a Request for Proposal (RFP). A committee of administrators will rank the bids and present a short list or a single recommendation to the council.

Mayotte said her priority is “protection for our employees. I hear so many people say, ‘Our garbage guys are the best.’”

A city spokeswoman said the RFP would include an item about the company hiring current employees. An item in the RFP will ask bidders about city employees. Some will keep their jobs even if the council outsources residential pickup because the city intends to retain vegetation pickup.

Narrowing Congress?

At tonight’s workshop meeting, the Delray Beach City Commission will discuss the plan to narrow Congress Avenue from six lanes to four lanes and add bikes lanes. Money from the one-cent sales tax surcharge would finance the work, which the city has said would make the road more inviting and help redevelopment.

The Palm Beach Transportation Agency wants to know by June 30 whether the city still supports the project or wants to withdraw its support. Work would begin in about three years.

Midtown ordinances

Two Midtown items are on tonight’s Boca Raton City Council agenda, but they aren’t an attempt to sneak big decisions past the public.

According a city spokeswoman, the ordinances are necessary to carry out whatever development rules the council approves for Midtown, east of Town Center Mall. At the council’s request, the staff is preparing a “small area master plan” for Midtown. The largest landowner, Crocker Partners, has filed two lawsuits against the seeking over the council’s failure to approve those rules.

Christina Morrison files for commission run

Realtor Christina Morrison, who served briefly on the Delray Beach City Commission, has filed paperwork to run as a Republican in County Commission District 4.

Boca Del Mar resident William Vale is the only other Republican to have submitted paperwork. He has never run for public office. Palm Beach County Republican Chairman Michael Barnett had said he would run, but I’m told that Barnett will yield to Morrison.

The only Democrat in the race to succeed Steven Abrams is former Boca Raton City Councilman Robert Weinroth. Susan Haynie, a Republican, withdrew after being charged with public corruption. Gov. Scott suspended her as mayor of Boca Raton. Haynie has pleaded not guilty.

Qualifying for county and state offices begins Monday and runs until next Friday.

Delray parking enforcement ban

When I reported last week on Delray Beach’s new parking plan, the city said it would delay enforcement of fines for a month. The plan was to take effect Monday, but the city now says the plan will start June 25.

Coco Gauff makes history

A Delray Beach resident has made sports history.

Last weekend, 14-year Cori “Coco” Gauff became the youngest winner of the Girls Championship at the French Open. She rallied after losing the first set to fellow American Caty McNally. Gauff is one of the country’s most promising young players. She has received coaching and financial support from the foundation established by Serena Williams’ coach.

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