By Kristen M. Clark
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
WEST PALM BEACH — The Palm Beach Post is asking a circuit court judge to unseal financial records in the divorce case of Wellington Village Councilman John Greene.
Greene argued last summer that the information could be misused by “bloggers” and others on social media “who may not support his political views” and who would seek to “create a false impression” or “to attack and defame him.” Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Scher agreed and made secret Greene’s and his former wife’s documents.
Attorneys for The Post argued in a motion filed Wednesday that Greene’s request wasn’t sufficient for the records to be sealed and that The Post would have challenged it had Greene’s attorney given proper notice of his request, as court rules require.
“Public debate about a public official’s qualifications and fitness for office is to be encouraged, not stifled. And openness, not secrecy, is the cure for concerns about the spread of misinformation and falsehoods,” Martin Reeder and Bryce Albu, attorneys for The Post, wrote in their motion.
Questions have been raised about Greene’s public accountability, which make his financial statements a “legitimate” public interest, they said.
The Post reported last month that Greene failed to file joint tax returns for at least 2011 and 2012 and possibly 2013, according to court records in the Greenes’ divorce.
“This fact bears directly on Councilman Greene’s qualifications and fitness to hold public office and the public therefore has a strong and legitimate interest in knowing the financial information that is currently sealed,” The Post’s attorneys argue.
Attorney John Boykin, who represented Greene’s ex-wife, Dana, in the divorce, said he supports The Post’s motion.
“I agree that public officials have no special right to have records sealed beyond that of an ordinary citizen. Mr. Greene’s records should be unsealed and available to the public,” Boykin told The Post.
John Greene’s attorney Anthony Barbuto declined to comment Wednesday evening. He said he had not yet reviewed The Post’s motion nor had a chance to talk with Greene about it. The divorce was finalized in April.
Greene was elected to the Wellington council in 2012. He receives an annual compensation of $9,600 for his elected duties, which include voting on budgets and setting property tax rates and assessments for Wellington residents.
Reeder and Albu assert that Greene “has no expectation of privacy” about his sources of income, because his village salary is public and so is his compensation as a contractor for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Foundation.
Greene — through his company Bari Limerick Corp. — started working as a fundraising consultant for the sheriff’s foundation in 2013. During the first six months of that year, the foundation paid Greene $30,750, according to the foundation’s most recent tax return to the IRS.
Under Florida’s open records law, the basic substance of divorce records is presumed to be open to the public.
Former County Commissioner Tony Masilotti’s divorce case partly precipitated his downfall in 2007 when The Post found clues to secret land deals in the financial portion of the documents. Masilotti pleaded guilty to corruption charges and was sentenced to five years in federal prison.
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