August 12, 2022

ethics

Mary McCarty's Fall from Grace

Mike Vogel | 3/1/2009

Given the state of affairs in scandal-rich Palm Beach County, perhaps the coincidence was inevitable. On the January day when county leaders gathered to sign an “ethics pledge,” the news broke that another county commissioner was resigning and would plead guilty to a federal corruption charge.

Palm Beach County Commissioner portraits
A worker removes a portrait of former Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty. [Photo: Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post/Newscom]
The latest to tumble from the seven-member board: Mary McCarty, an 18-year Republican commissioner who is accused of voting on bond deals that benefited her and her husband — he was a municipal bond underwriter — and of taking thousands of dollars worth of free and discounted hotel rooms from the company the commissioners selected to develop a convention center hotel. McCarty’s husband, Kevin, former chairman of the South Florida Water Management District, pleaded guilty. Mary McCarty joins Republicans Tony Masilotti and Warren Newell, who have been jailed since 2006 on corruption charges for separate wrongdoings. A proverbial pillar of the legal establishment, William Boose III, went to jail in the Masilotti case. Two West Palm Beach city commissioners were busted in still another probe. And U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta says he isn’t done.

The McCarty scam pushes back even further the prospects of a new hotel at the convention center, which has suffered from a lack of nearby hotel rooms. “There’s a huge need for it. We’ve lost a lot of events because we simply don’t have the hotel property within a half-mile of the convention center,” says Jorge Pesquera, CEO of the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

But the area could suffer more than lost convention revenue if businesses come to see it as a pay-to-play county. “If I was a business looking to relocate and I saw the playing field wasn’t level, I would go elsewhere,” says Marty Rogol, owner of Marketing Concepts in West Palm Beach. “From a business perspective, this is a very important issue.”

That’s why Rogol, ethics chairman for Leadership Palm Beach County and its immediate past president, and a group he gathered devised the ethics pledge, which McCarty, incidentally, took before her fall.

“The pledge to us,” says Rogol, “is the beginning of the shifting of the culture.”

Tags: Politics & Law, Southeast, Government/Politics & Law

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