December 19, 2019
Lulu Ramadan is an example of what local reporting can do to hold the government accountable. She investigated the illegal activity going on behind closed doors during the Boca voting period for Mayor. Her attention to detail is what sets her apart in this story versus her other stories. Ramadan noticed that something wasn’t quite right when it came Susan Haynie.
Ramadan said, “We started hearing allegations in March and that’s when I decided, along with my team to dive deeper. Susan Haynie, the then Mayor of Boca Raton, was accused of lying to investigators when she said she never received payments from an outside business. She collected $72,600 from a software firm that was owned by her husband, despite having told officials that she had no outside source of income.
Like other journalists, Ramadan was a little bit on the down low when it came to reporting this. She wanted to keep her findings under wraps until she knew she had the juice to continue on with the story. What was later discovered was that a huge developer in Boca Raton by the name of James Batmasian was involved in the money laundering. During this time, there were projects that were being developed during voting, yet the financial side was never discussed or shared with the public.
According to the Palm Beach Post, “Both as a city council member and Mayor, Haynie has voted 12 times on proposals that involve James Batmasian and increased his property values. Haynie never reported any financial ties to the state.”
Ramadan got a tip from the mayor’s political opponent about her husband’s side business and that’s when she started to dig. This was a risk for Ramadan because she was new at the Palm Beach Post and only 22 years old. When she saw that Haynie never disclosed the business in the mandatory forms, Ramadan noticed something was off and kept pressing.
Ramadan and Haynie engaged in a sit down interview in her office. The young female recorded the entire exchange. Much of what she said, Ramadan later learned was not even true. It was the only interview that the Mayor gave her.
The now 23 year old reporter, took a huge risk next. She decided to call Haynie and request another interview in order to really grab hold of the story. One of her supporters brought up Ramadans age during a public meeting after the story ran with the information she had gotten. He said at the podium that they should ignore her reporting because she was just 22 years old and an FAU Graduate.
“It was tough for the five months between the story running and prosecutors filing criminal charges. Eventually even her supporters conceded it was solid reporting. Eventually…”, Ramadan says.
Susan Haynie was eventually arrested and charged. Haynie will now defend herself against corruption charges in early 2020 all thanks to the persistent reporting from a young college graduate who was insistent on exposing this story to the best of her ability.
According to the Sun Sentinel “Haynie is charged with perjury in an official proceeding, misuse of public office, corrupt misuse of public office and failure to disclose a voting conflict. She also faces three counts of official misconduct.”
Ramadan shows that age is nothing but a number and that persistency in reporting is golden. Her reporting suggests that by pressing on when you know you have a story and disregarding what others think of you in order to get the information you need is the key to delivering an exceptional story. She has made a name for herself and is surely a reliable reporter at best.