Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Palm Beach County Commissioner Koons
resigns after extortion, perjury charges

From Jennifer Sorentrue, Sonja Isger, Andrew Abramson and Pat Beall of The Palm Beach Post on Aug. 3:
Palm Beach County Commissioner Jeff Koons resigned from the county commission this morning, hours after being booked on charges of extortion, perjury and violating public open meetings laws.

He was released on his own recognizance.

Authorities pinned the arrest partly on threats Koons allegedly made against a family that opposed his pet environmental project in the Lake Worth Lagoon, according to the arrest report.

"The charges focus firmly on the defendant's conduct -- both in words and deeds -- and include his extortionate threats to silence opposition to a project he supported, his attempts to punish opponents of the project when they did not submit to his extortion, and his attempts to mislead the authorities when asked to account for his actions," said State Attorney Michael McAuliffe in a prepared statement.

Koons' actions "do not reflect impulsive or fleeting mistakes," McAuliffe said. "The alleged conduct reflects an arrogance borne of the perceived protections of power and influence."

At a press conference, criminal defense lawyer David Roth read a statement from Koons, as his client sat silently: "I screwed up big time and I blame no one but myself. I shamed my friends, family and community. I can only pray for their forgiveness."

Roth said Koons never benefited financially from the lagoon project.

"Unfortunately it was his misdirected passion that led him to make totally inappropriate and ultimately illegal decisions that were never for personal economic gain," Roth said. "The South Cove environment project he tirelessly labored on for over 10 years. Jeff's emotions overpowered his common sense and good judgment and decency. His decisions were ill-conceived, born of frustration, impulsiveness and anger."

Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for Gov. Charlie Crist, said Koons' seat on the commission likely will remain vacant until the November election. Koons is term-limited out and was not running for re-election.

The governor's office will accept applications for the seat, but the appointment process typically takes a couple of months, Ivey said.


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