Anti-condo group demands mayor retract “extortion” comment or will sue

Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post

By Tony Doris

Published May 3, 2015


No sooner was one lawsuit against West Palm Beach settled this week than the mayor walked into the threat of another one.

Citizens for Thoughtful Growth — West Palm Beach, a group that this week dropped its suit opposing the 22-story condo proposed for the Chapel by the Lake site — says Mayor Jeri Muoio’s calling the $1.1 million settlement “borderline extortion” Wednesday was slanderous. The group on Thursday responded that it would sue unless the Mayor issued “a full and fair correction, apology or retraction” within five days.

“We’re not going to respond. We’re moving on,” the mayor’s spokesman, Elliot Cohen, said after the “intention to file” letter from Citizens attorney Bob Critton was delivered to the city.

Cohen noted that, in a Palm Beach Post article that appeared Thursday, Critton had compared the mayor’s assault on the group’s anti-condo effort to German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s Panzer Division in Africa.

At her weekly “availability” with the media Wednesday, Muoio sought to distance herself from the settlement reached by developer Flagler Investors to end litigation and allow the South Flagler Drive project to proceed. “It sends a message to other developers who want to build in our city,” she said. “I think it borders on extortion in terms of people saying, ‘Look, you’ve got to give us money or you can’t build your building.'”

That and other comments she made were defamatory “with actual and realized damages,” Critton wrote.

“Your comments have denigrated the integrity of (Citizens) and caused a loss of goodwill in the community. The obvious disdain and contempt you harbor for any citizen who shares a different point of view than you is not befitting of a high ranking publicly elected official. Chastising and slandering West Palm Beach’s citizens for exercising rights to which they are legally entitled is not only inappropriate, unprofessional and unbecoming, but actionable.”