A Florida mayor was removed from office Friday after she was arrested and charged with three felony corruption charges.
Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order suspending Joy Cooper, the 57-year-old mayor of Hallandale Beach, a city just north of Miami, after she was accused of accepting illegal campaign contributions through former attorney Alan Koslow.
Cooper surrender to authorities on Thursday following an undercover FBI investigation. She was charged with money laundering, official misconduct and exceeding campaign contribution limits, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Court documents show that Koslow was given a Dunkin’ Donuts bag filled with $8,000 in cash by undercover agents August 2012. He allegedly told undercover agents he had influence with the city commission and “had the vote of the mayor.”
Agents reportedly met with Cooper and Koslow several times in 2012 and secretly recorded the meetings. In one such meeting, Cooper was recorded saying she and two other commissioners were a “team of three” and could ensure a favorable result for their project, the newspaper reported.
Additionally, Cooper also allegedly solicited fund for Anthony Sanders, the former commissioner of Hallandale Beach, who resigned from his position August 2017 following allegations of miscounted. The Sun Sentinel reported Sanders was accused of voting to award nearly $1 million to a nonprofit that made monthly payments to his church and family.
In addition to the felony charges, Cooper was also charged with soliciting contributions in a government building, a first-degree misdemeanor with a one-year maximum sentence.
The felony charges carry maximum prison sentences of five years.
Larry Davis, her attorney, said she plans to plead not guilty.
Cooper, a Democrat, has been the city’s mayor since 2005 and previously served on the city commission beginning in 1999.
“I can assure you that I will vigorously fight these allegations in court,” Cooper said in a prepared statement obtained by the Sun Sentinel.
The news outlet reported Cooper emptied her office before turning herself into Main Jail in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday. She was released later that night.
Eric Fordin, a developer, told the Sun Sentinel he was “shocked” by the allegations against Cooper.
“(She) has always been so aboveboard. I recall her writing a check for $2.45 for a soda at the grand opening of one of our hotels because she could not accept a drink,” Fordin said.
Fordin said he was never asked or pressured by the mayor or other Hallandale Beach politicians for contributions.
Vice Mayor Keith London will take over Cooper’s duties while she is suspended.
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