The ethics complaint filed on behalf of Lake Worth business owner Gary Dario against City Commissioner Cara Jennings was dismissed yesterday by the Florida Commission on Ethics for "lack of legal sufficiency." The commission upheld Jennings's "right to boycott" -- even though she holds political office.
Dario, who owned Nature's Way on Lake Avenue (it's now under new ownership), found himself at the center of a heated controversy when he hosted a
fundraiser for Scott Maxwell last November. Maxwell was running for the District 1 seat on the commission against Ron Exline. Commissioner Jennings phoned Dario before the fundraiser and threatened to boycott his business if he hosted the event.
Dario was unaware at the time that Maxwell's opposition had discovered alleged ties between Maxwell, a vocal critic of illegal immigration, and controversial organizations like the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) and, more tenuously, Stormfront, West Palm's homegrown White Nationalist group.
The complaint was filed by Mary Lindsey, a Lake Worth activist and passionate critic of Jennings; and former CRA member Brendan Lynch.
UPDATE: In the public report, the commission found that "identifying onesself as a public official is not a misuse of office," particularly since Jennings derived no profit from so identifying herself. The commission further noted that Jennings did not promise any city action against Dario or his business but was employing a threat of economic pressure enjoyed by all citizens -- the right to boycott.
Interestingly, the report alludes to a similar case with ex-Lake Worth mayor Tom Ramiccio, who evidently did threaten city action against a store owner who was supporting a rival.
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