Palm Beach Post wants financial records of city councilman

Sep 23, 2014

After a messy divorce hearing, the Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, Florida is requesting the circuit court judge unseal the financial records of Wellington Village Councilman John Greene.

Greene has argued on several occasions that the information in the documents can be misused by those who many not agree with his political stance, such as bloggers and people on social networks. The result would be people trying to attack and defame him. Judge Rosemarie Scher, a Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge, agreed with his assessment and has kept the documents sealed for the time being.

Lawyers for the Palm Beach Post said in a motion filed to the courts that the request by Greene did not give compelling and sufficient justification for the records to be sealed. The Post, as a result, would have no choice but to challenge the ruling.

Bryce Albu and Martin Reeder, attorneys for The Post, argued that an open debate about an official in public office regarding qualifications and the ability to remain in office should be encouraged by all. They continued that these documents should not be held in secrecy, and that the truth will come out and rise above misinformation.

Residents have questioned Greene’s accountability in public office, which the attorneys point to as a legitimate reason the documents should be unsealed.

In August, The Post revealed that Greene had failed to file joint tax returns with his wife for several years including 2011 and 2012. It is possible that he failed to file a joint tax return in 2013, per court records in the divorce proceedings.

Albu and Reeder said the information sealed needs to be released because it has the information the public needs to decide whether or not Greene is fit to hold public office. They added that it would be disheartening for locals to continue to back a person that is not fully qualified for the position he holds.

John Boykin, an attorney for Dana Greene, John’s ex-wife, said he supports the motion set forth by The Post.

Boykin said public officials do not have special rights or privileges; they should have to follow the laws as they’re set forth.

Anthony Barbuto, an attorney for Mr. Greene declined comment, stating he and his client have yet to review the motion set forth by The Post. The Greenes officially divorced in April.

Greene has been a member of the Wellington council since 2012. Records show he receives $9,600 for his work, which includes voting on budgets and setting local property tax rates. Attorneys for the post said that since Greene’s salary is public there should not be an expectation of privacy regarding his sources of income.

In a previous case, corruption lead to the dismissal of former County Commissioner Tony Masilotti in 2007. It was found during a Post investigation that Masilotti had made secret land deals. This information was found after The Post had asked for his records to be released. Masilotti pled guilty to corruption and was sentenced to five years in prison.