WEST PALM BEACH — An ethics complaint filed against West Palm Beach Commissioner Keith James by a developer whose project was rejected by the City doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on, according to a recent board ruling.
The Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics, which looked into whether developer Michael McCloskey had any case against Commissioner James, issued its ruling last week.
McCloskey claimed that during a meeting “James treated [him] rudely, used expletives, and indicated that he would not vote for his project. James allegedly linked his lack of support for the project to the fact that McCloskey supported his campaign opponent,” according to the dismissal letter from the Ethics Commission.
The Ethics Commission dismissed the developer’s complaint, saying it had “no legal sufficiency.”
McCloskey filed the complaint the same week his project was voted down by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency Board, which is made up of the members of the City Commission, including Commissioner James.
Last year, a majority on the board voted to give McCloskey exclusive rights to negotiate a deal to purchase the Tent Site, a valuable piece of CRA-owned real estate in the heart of the city’s Flagler Financial District.
Several people, including West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, opposed the idea of giving McCloskey exclusive rights to buy the property saying the process should be open to anyone who has a good project for the site. Mayor Muoio, who serves on the Board, does not generally vote (unless to break a tie) and did not vote on the decision.
Following city elections in March, McCloskey lost one of his strongest supporters on the CRA Board. Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell, forced to give up her seat to run for Mayor, lost the election.
At a later CRA Board meeting, and with two new members of the CRA Board, McCloskey’s project was rejected and the decision was made to open the process up to other potential developers.
That same week he filed the complaint against Commissioner James.
The Ethics Commission further concluded that McCloskey’s claims, even if they were true “do not constitute a violation of any Section of the [Ethics] Code.”