Hallandale Beach Democratic Mayor Joy Cooper was suspended following an arrest on charges of corruption and soliciting contributions in a government building during an FBI sting operation referred to as "Red Chip."
Cooper, 57, who served on the city commission for almost 20 years, was not only involved in soliciting money for herself but also for two political allies.
The Sun Sentinel reports:
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Former commissioner Bill Julian received two $500 checks for his campaign, but there was no indication he knew they were illegal, according to the arrest affidavit.
Cooper also solicited funds for former commissioner Anthony Sanders, court records show, but they do not say whether Sanders received illegal checks.
Sanders resigned in August after being accused by the Broward Inspector General of using his elected position for financial gain. He was accused of voting to award nearly $1 million to a nonprofit that made monthly payments to his church and family.
Sanders told the South Florida Sun Sentinel he was not aware of any backroom dealings involving Cooper. He and Julian often voted in tandem with Cooper, leaving their political foes Keith London and Michele Lazarow on the losing side of many decisions.
Cooper, 57, has been charged with money laundering, official misconduct and exceeding the limit on campaign finance contributions -- felony charges that each carry a maximum five-year sentence. She also has been charged with soliciting contributions in a government building, a first-degree misdemeanor with a one-year maximum sentence.
Of course, both Julian and Sanders deny any knowledge of the activity.
Florida Governor Rick Scott suspended Ms. Cooper on Friday, a day after she was arrested and accused of accepting contributions funneled through Alan Koslow. Koslow, who was once a prominent attorney, was disbarred after pleading guilty to helping people he thought were criminals to hide the source of $220,000 linked to illegal gambling and drug dealing of cocaine and counterfeit Viagra.
"Joy Cooper is prohibited from performing any official act, duty or function of public office; from receiving any pay or allowance; and from being entitled to any of the emoluments or privileges of public office during the period of this suspension," Scott's order read.
Cooper says that she will fight the charges. She issued a statement following her release.
"I have dedicated my time and energy to focus on performing all of my duties with utmost integrity," she said. "I can assure you that I will vigorously fight these allegations in court."
She was accused of being drunk at a commission meeting in November, which she claimed she was merely sick from a trip to Mexico.
Her son, Matt, told a local affiliate, "My mom will be vindicated, I'm sure."
Her attorney, Larry Davis, told reporters that she “never accepted any money, anything that went into her pocket. She never accepted a campaign contribution for any quid pro quo, for any developer, anybody in her 20 years of public life.”
David also told Fox News that Ms. Cooper plans to plead not guilty.
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