Former Plantation Mayor Lynn Stoner has been arrested, accused of trying to coerce a city building official to fraudulently sign off on development projects, and falsifying documents to help a developer get a loan.
Stoner turned herself in to the Broward jail on Tuesday morning to face four charges of official misconduct, falsifying a record and influencing a building official.
The documents detailing the charges against her paint a portrait of a mayor intent on “knowingly and intentionally” helping developer Christopher Longsworth and his development companies and projects three years ago: She urged the building official, Adnan “Danny” Ezzeddine, to not throw her “under the bus” during his conversations with the developer, and asked him to write a letter saying code violations were resolved, when they hadn’t been, which would have been a violation of state law, the documents say.
Longsworth, CEO and founder of Plantation-based Invesca Development Group, died in December 2020 at age 36.
The charges are one count of official misconduct, a third-degree felony, one count of falsifying records, a misdemeanor, and two counts of influencing a building official, both misdemeanors. The charges of influencing a building official relate to incidents in April 2020, and between July and September 2020.
Among the allegations:
- In April 2020, Stoner “attempted to coerce, trick, persuade, or otherwise influence” Ezzeddine to “do her a favor” and write an official letter stating that Strata Group’s building code violations and fines had been resolved or to eliminate those violations, or both, prosecutors said. When Ezzeddine refused, Stoner issued the letter herself, resulting in the official misconduct charge, prosecutors said.
- Between July and September of that year, Stoner again tried to get Ezzeddine to allow the developer to do construction work “without a proper permit” on the Pixl project.
- Stoner instructed Ezzeddine to not throw her “under the bus” during his conversations with the developer, according to the affidavit, and told him “that he had so much power that he could allow the Pixl project to proceed without complying with the Florida Building Code and without the proper permit.” She said that he needed to “fix the problem,” according to records.
- Prosecutors allege Stoner told him to let the construction continue and not to send inspectors to the job site because the developer’s bank was going to visit the property that week, and when he sent them anyway, she “scolded” him, according to the affidavit.
The Pixl project is still under construction, and expected to be condos. The developer said last year it would be a 330-unit project and amenities would include multiple pools, a gym, yoga studio, park and an outdoor theater. The developer’s accompanying Strata project is now townhomes, with a second and final phase scheduled for construction once Pixl is completed.
Stoner’s defense attorney, Larry Davis, said the former mayor, 70, will plead not guilty at her arraignment, which has not yet been set. The charges carry a maximum possible punishment of up to eight years in prison.
Davis said his client was only doing her job. “Plantation is one of only two cities (in Broward) that have a strong mayor form of government,” he said Tuesday morning. “Mayor Stoner was exercising her administrative authority pursuant to the city’s charter.”
Plantation has a strong-mayor form of government, which means the mayor runs the city instead of a city manager and manages all the departments, from parks and recreation to police and fire.
Stoner served on the Plantation City Council from 2011 to 2017 before being elected mayor in 2018. She lost her reelection campaign in November.
City officials had previously complained about allegations of the mayor’s impropriety with projects.
There were allegations around City Hall in 2020 that Ezzeddine had been fired by Stoner because he refused to sign off on the Pixl project.
Three years ago, City Councilwoman Denise Horland called an online meeting to talk about Ezzeddine and other employees, saying at the time directors and staff were put in a position “to compromise personal and professional integrity.”
She said at the time she believed “he was fired because he refused the mayor’s orders to remove the stop-work order on the Pixl project, which was put into place because the developer was and continues to work without a permit. … Mr. Ezzeddine was fired for following the law.”
It was an allegation Stoner denied, saying staff changes are for the betterment of the city.
She had called Horland’s accusations “reckless and unsubstantiated comments,” and said Ezzeddine was fired for his unwillingness to work with multiple clients.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel on Tuesday could not reach Ezzeddine for comment.
The Sept. 29, 2020, meeting was abruptly cut short, because it was “porn bombed” with screenshots and audio from porn videos.
There was a police investigation but city officials said no instigator was named. A police spokesman and the police chief did not respond to an email for comment Tuesday.
Mayor Nick Sortal, who defeated Stoner in the last election and had alleged dirty politics during the campaign, declined to comment.
Other allegations of misconduct by Stoner are still under review by prosecutors, said Paula McMahon, spokeswoman for the State Attorney’s Office.
After being booked, which included being photographed and fingerprinted, Stoner was released on her own recognizance about noon, or about four hours after she turned herself in.
Davis said Stoner is “resigned to the fact she needs to fight this.”
City Councilwoman Horland called it “a sad day for the city of Plantation.” She said, “It breaks my heart for the city.”
Dmitry Kuznetsov, director of business development and analytics with Invesca Development Group, which built Pixl, could not be reached for comment Tuesday by email or phone.
Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash