SunSentinel by Susannah Bryan
May 21, 2018
Joy Cooper, the Hallandale Beach mayor ousted from office in January after being snared in an FBI sting, denies an allegation by the Broward Inspector General that she violated the state’s Sunshine Law 26 times.
Cooper’s attorney, Larry Davis, argued in a May 10 letter that a charitable foundation overseen by Cooper and two other commissioners was not subject to Florida’s public records law.
But the Broward Inspector General’s Office says Cooper held meetings out of the public eye while serving as a board member of the Future Foundation, a charitable organization created and administered by Hallandale officials at City Hall – a relationship that made it subject to the state’s public records laws.
The Inspector General has referred the case to the Broward State Attorney’s Office.
Agency spokeswoman Constance Simmons said Monday that prosecutors are reviewing the matter.
At least $340,000 was funneled to the Future Foundation, including $175,000 from city funds, payroll deductions of city employees and private developers seeking construction permits, the Inspector General said in a report released May 16.
Cooper attended at least 26 meetings that were held in secret because the public was never given notice, the report says. Former Commissioners Bill Julian and Anthony Sanders attended at least two such meetings.
The report also accuses Cooper of refusing to turn over public documents related to the foundation when a resident requested them, another violation of Florida’s open government laws.