MIAMI – A former Pompano Beach advisory board member who successfully avoided unlawful compensation charges by proving he was not a public figure now might not be able to recoup his defense costs because he won his argument.
According to the Sun Sentinel, Vicente Thrower, former vice chairman of the Northwest Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Committee (CRA), is asking to be reimbursed $483,778, but lawyers for the city argue that if Thrower was not a public figure, he is not entitled to compensation for legal fees.
Under Florida state law, municipalities are required to pay the legal fees of public officials who are charged but subsequently found not guilty of corruption charges during the performance of their official duties. The law says that a "public officer includes any person elected or appointed to hold office in any agency, including any person serving on an advisory body."
For a defendant to obtain reimbursement in such cases, the alleged criminal charges must have taken place during "the performance of his public duties" and occurred "while serving a public purpose."
A Broward Beat report said the CRA alleges that "Thrower’s actions did not serve a public purpose but rather served his own pecuniary interests"
Attorneys for Thrower argue that his criminal trial should have no bearing on the city’s decision to cover his legal fees, and a legal opinion from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi states that Thrower was acting as a public official.
The case stems from Thrower's 2008 arrest after being accused of taking more than $50,000 in consulting fees from three businesses working on deals involving the city and the CRA. The state's attorney’s office also alleges that Thrower sought a $2,000 monthly bribe from a consultant who wanted to renew a municipal contract, according to the Sun Sentinel.
While acting as a consultant and member of the CRA advisory committee, Thrower was alleged to have failed to disclose to fellow members that he solicited and received $3,250 from Pompano Beach Living LLC to use his influence to recommend a zoning change for a townhouse development, $22,000 from Lavish Homes/Midtown Village LLC in exchange for his recommendation that the developer receive $1,055,000 to defray affordable housing costs, and $25,000 from Habitat for Humanity of Fort Lauderdale in exchange for his recommendation that the Northwest CRA purchase the city property the charity owned.
In 2014, however, a jury found Thrower not guilty because it determined he was not a public official, which was what the prosecution had built its case around.