Political opponent in WPB city commission race files complaint - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Political opponent in WPB city commission race files ethics complaint

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - The political opponent of West Palm Beach City Commissioner Keith James filed an ethics complaint involving James' role with a non-profit and an affiliated church.

According to the complaint filed Monday with the Palm County Commission on Ethics, Alex Augustin alleges James had a conflict of interest when he failed to disclose his association to Redemptive Life Fellowship Urban Initiative Corp.

Augustin is challenging James to the District 4 seat James has held since 2011.

Augustin says this complaint had nothing to do with his race against James.

"To people who think this is politically motivated I will say it was the right thing to do," Augustin told NewsChannel 5 by phone.

Redemptive Life Fellowship Urban Initiative Corp. is a non-profit that partnered with the City to develop affordable housing, using HUD grants.

In 2011 an investigation brought to light that Redemptive Life failed to follow federal grant guidelines.

As a result the City of West Palm Beach was ordered by HUD to repay 3 million dollar for failing to provide adequate management of the grant money.

Commissioner James has longstanding ties to Bishop Harold Ray who heads the non-profit, as well as several others and who is the pastor of a church where commissioner James is a parishioner.

The commissioner is listed as registered agent for several non-profits controlled by Bishop Ray. James has always contended he did this free of charge.

A recent investigation by Fox 29's newsgathering partner the Palm Beach Post revealed that Redemptive Life Fellowship Urban Initiative Corp. paid James $2,500, but this was before he was elected commissioner.

Last week, James withdrew his name as a registered agent of one of the non-profits controlled by Bishop Ray.

WFLX tried to reach Commissioner James to comment on the ethics complaint, but did not get a response.

West palm Beach's spokesperson, Elliot Cohen, emailed WFLX the following statement:

On behalf of Commissioner James and the City, I wanted to contact you regarding your questions about the complaint that was filed.

The issue raised in the complaint, which was filed by a candidate running against Commissioner James in the March election, has been reviewed by the City's independent Ethics Officer who determined the Commissioner acted appropriately.

Commissioner James has never served as a registered agent for the group that received money from the city. He only served as a registered agent for the church of which he is also a member.

Yet in order to eliminate any misunderstanding, Commissioner James has also decided to withdraw his name as an agent for the Church to avoid any confusion.

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