Broward News

[UPDATED] Boynton Beach Vice Mayor Marlene Ross Dines and Drinks With Embattled CRA Director but Denies Friendship

Commissioner Marlene Ross
Lisa Bright is currently being investigated by Boynton Beach and by the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office based on allegations that she harbored conflicts of interest in her role as director of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency. But now questions are being raised about whether she also has a conflict with Commissioner Vice Mayor Marlene Ross, who with other commissioners serve as Bright's boss.

A tipster told the Juice that Bright and Ross are close friends who socialize frequently. I asked Ross about this allegation. "I consider her a professional colleague, and she's the executive director of the CRA, and I'm her boss," Ross says.

I asked Ross whether she socializes with Bright. "Lisa and I sometimes meet to discuss business over lunch," say Ross. "We have dinner sometimes after work to discuss CRA business."

That's necessary, Ross adds, because she has so little time during the day, when she works as community-affairs director for WXEL, the public-television station based in Boynton Beach.

Bright is under fire in part for being an officer in a nonprofit corporation that promotes WXEL as a "local treasure" in Boynton Beach. Ross says that she met Bright about three years ago when Ross was campaigning for the commission.

According to the tipster, Bright was present at a recent birthday party for Ross. But the District 4 commissioner denied having anything resembling a party. "She took me out for a drink for my birthday," said Ross of Bright.

Ross refused to answer other questions about that evening. "I'm not going to talk about my birthday," she said. "That's a sacred area."

Correction: A previous version of this post identified Ross as a commissioner of Boynton Beach. She is the vice mayor, which is basically the same thing. All the same, we regret the error.

UPDATE: Bright's office declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation. Her attorney, Sid Garcia, told the Juice that he had no knowledge of any friendship between Bright and Ross. He said that his client has had to endure an "ever-morphing series of accusations" that have been "orchestrated by Mayor Jose Rodriguez, not for professional reasons but for personal and political reasons."

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Thomas Francis