Nude photos. Blackmail. An inappropriate relationship. Intimidation. Mix all this together, and it makes for a salacious story from Boynton Beach, Florida.
Marlene Ross, a Boynton Beach city commissioner since 2007, was reelected in 2011. Around that time, she developed suspicions that former commissioner turned lobbyist David Katz, who had pressured and intimidated her for years on her votes, knew of nude photos that Ross had sent in 2010 to a boyfriend. The boyfriend, Rogelio Vera, is also Ross’ first cousin.
Yes, things get interesting in Boynton Beach. This is only one of the scandals that has plagued this city recently. In January, former Mayor Jose Rodriguez resigned for interfering with a child abuse investigation. Plus, the former director of the Community Redevelopment Agency is suing Rodriguez for sexual harassment.
Recently, state prosecutors contacted Ross after a tow truck company owner, who has accused the city of corruption, informed prosecutors that Ross could be the target of blackmail.
Shortly afterwards, Katz made a public statement suggesting that he knew about the photos Ross sent to Vera. The Palm Beach Post, which broke the story, reported:
In comments that were cryptic to most in the chambers but which Ross believed were aimed at her, Katz suggested “consequences” for voting against his close friend, former Mayor Jerry Taylor, to fill out the term of a commissioner who had resigned in July. Ross continued that night to oppose Taylor and the commission remained deadlocked, 2-2.
The comments from Katz referred to the “transmittal of messages and pictures between elected officials and convicted felons.”
In her testimony to investigators, Ross raised that Katz’ intimidating behavior goes back to 2007. Yet prosecutors wanted to know why Ross would feel intimidated. She then revealed her relationship with her cousin, the married Vera, who also happens to be an ex-con with a rap sheet of 20 arrests from cocaine to larceny.
From the Daily Mail:
“I was glad to be able to expose what I knew to the State Attorney. Unfortunately, the State Attorney was unable to file charges in this case; however, at a minimum these self-serving and sinister individuals are exposed for their despicable actions.”
Just over two weeks ago, Ms Ross was questioned by an investigator in the state attorney’s office who made her go into detail about her decision to send the naked pictures in the first place.
She said that she and her cousin Rogelio Vera, who is a convicted felon, were in a relationship while he was married to his ex-wife Lillian.
“He started with the flirting,” Ms Ross said at the hearing, which was recorded.
“I said, ‘Oh, c’mon. This is not right.’ He’s a first cousin. ‘This is not right. You’ve got to stop.’”
Ms Ross faced the criticism of her then-sister-in-law who found the pictures and send (sic) her ‘mean, vicious’ text messages.
For his part, Katz denies any attempt to blackmail Ross:
“This is laughable at best. There’s nothing to blackmail her over. That’s ridiculous.”
From the Sun-Sentinel, Katz called out Ross as a liar.
“If you look up the word ‘Pinocchio’ in the dictionary, you’re going to see a picture of the commissioner from District 4,” he said. “I was never called, contacted or asked to talk to [investigators] because there was nothing to what she said.”
State investigators decided there wasn’t enough evidence to mount a prosecution against Katz, but they did propose wiring Ross to see if Katz made any incriminating comments. At that point, Ross stopped working with investigators, as she remained fearful of Katz.
Some, primarily Mayor Woodrow Hay, are calling for Ross to resign because she “compromised” the high standards of elected officials.
That may be the biggest news in Boynton Beach over the last year. Who would ever have thought that the city’s elected officials had high standards?
This is one of the stories were there isn’t much sympathy to spread around. If Ross was blackmailed, then she is a victim and deserves some sympathy for that. However, she willingly became involved in a relationship with her married first cousin and willingly sent naked pictures of herself to him. Despite her plea for her cousin to stop pursuing her, Ross is responsible for her own decisions. She lamented that her political career is now ruined, but that is only because she allowed herself to be bullied by Katz and made poor decisions in her personal life. Anyone who serves in public office has to have a stronger backbone and make better decisions than Ross has done.
In the meantime, perhaps the light from this scandal and the one earlier with Mayor Rodriguez will straighten out politics in Boynton Beach and suppress any future attempts at blackmail, sexual harassment and intimidation.