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In his taupe suit jacket, lavender shirt, and purple tie, Eric Haynes looks more GQ executive than Lauderdale Lakes commissioner. But in a city where minorities form the majority and where octogenarian Samuel Brown is mayor, a young vice mayor looks a lot like the heir to the city's future. Even more so because, after a cautious, largely quiet first two terms, Haynes has lately been stretching his political legs. He understands how the closure of Lauderdale Lakes' only Starbucks is an ominous sign for the city's cosmopolitan aspirations, exhorting residents to consider $4 coffee an investment in their commercial district's future. He quit the Broward Black Elected Officials the moment its officers failed to account for missing funds. And he has been the most energetic political advocate for Boyd Anderson High School, the largely black school that is lacking books and needing repairs — unlike Cooper City's largely white high school, which was built at the same time, folks around Lauderdale Lakes have noted.
"In the past, I sat back and watched my colleagues take the lead," Haynes says after a commission meeting in late July, "but after hearing reports from the community, I decided more aggressive action needed to be taken." That means threatening to file suit against the Broward County School District if Boyd Anderson's needs are not addressed soon. "We want to make sure we're at the table and that we're eating steak instead of Spam," Haynes says.
At 37, with his winning smile and engaging manner, Haynes could go a long way in politics, maybe further than this working-class city, an idea that's occurred to him. "I might consider running at the state level," he says.
But that vision seems to vanish the moment he hears the name Beverly Key, his former mistress. "Oh, man!" says Haynes, smiling — or wincing — in spite of himself.
Lauderdale Lakes' most promising young political leader has Clintonian charms and, apparently, Clintonian vices. Haynes had a ten-year affair with Key that ended a year after she gave birth to his baby. Now, Key says Haynes is breaking the law to cheat her and their daughter out of child-support payments. For young politicians, the rocky end of Haynes' extramarital affair could serve as a cautionary tale about breaking personal promises in an era of transparent government and cyberinformation. The residue hangs around out there forever.
Haynes recently refused to discuss Key's claims, saying only, "That's a personal matter. We're in litigation right now. That will be left up to the court to decide."
Since the court route favors Haynes, who can afford to hire an attorney, Key is going public. Key hopes, she says, that her former lover's civic responsibilities will spur him to attend more diligently to his personal responsibilities. "He does a great job as vice mayor of Lauderdale Lakes," Key says. "Just take some of that energy and devote it to your flesh and blood."
Key was in the midst of a divorce in 1997, shopping for a new home, when she met Haynes, who was then working for a homebuilder. "Charismatic, young, very intelligent, ambitious, driven," says Key, recalling her first impressions. "But the attributes he's showing right now, if you'd have told me he'd do this to his daughter, I'd have spat in your face."
Haynes was married with a son, but all through the late 1990s and early 2000s, they were involved romantically, a period during which Haynes founded several companies, including Gemini Construction and Development, for buying and fixing up homes. They remained close when, in 2002, Haynes' local activism turned into a bid for City Commission. Key wanted him to leave his wife. Haynes promised he would — eventually.
In 2005, he recorded an audiotape for Key, which she shared with New Times, in which Haynes pleads for just a little more time: "You've said before, 'Boo, if you love me, then why aren't you right here with me?' And for years, I couldn't give you an answer. But now more than ever, I really know that I love you and that I need to be with you and that I'm going to be with you."
A moment later, Haynes admits, "I'm scared, because it's uncharted territory."
Unwilling to follow through on the divorce, Haynes tried to mollify Key with symbolic gestures. He gave her a diamond engagement ring that he asked her to wear on her left hand. It was Haynes' idea, Key says, to open a joint checking account. He wanted to start a business with her. One day, Haynes took her to a lot where he said the two would build a home, raise a family. Key says that Haynes was so eager to start their new life, "He wanted to get me pregnant," which he did, in 2005.
That same year, he surprised Key by flying to Washington, D.C., to attend her family reunion, where, she says, he told relatives that the two would soon be married.
But Key says that during her pregnancy, the relationship became more turbulent — fights followed by dramatic makeups in which Haynes would shower Key with promises and gifts. During a 2005 trip to New York City, after watching Denzel Washington play Julius Caesar on Broadway, Haynes bought Key a diamond necklace. In a note, he said the necklace's three tiers stood for "past, present, and future."