This was written about two years ago… But very applicable, now more than ever.[cleeng_content id="886126864" description="Why stop now? It's just getting interesting!" price="0.99" referral="0.10"]By Pat Beall
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
WEST PALM BEACH — Riviera Beach City Councilman Cedrick Thomas has been slapped with a $206,723 judgment, the upshot of a failed loan for his sometimes-controversial charter bus service.
Thomas said he has been trying to settle with The Business Loan Fund of the Palm Beaches, a non-profit partially financed by Palm Beach County. That includes an offer to return a bus to offset his debt. But, he said, “They have rejected the settlement I offered.”
“Cedrick needs to do the right thing,” said Richard Cohen, the attorney representing the Fund. Thomas has been talking about a deal, he confirmed, and, after The Palm Beach Post made inquiries about the loan, Thomas sent over a signed settlement agreement. “This is not a case where he has stuck his head in the sand.” But the agreement Thomas signed is out-of-date, said Cohen. “It was late, he didn’t send it timely, he didn’t make a payment, we have no agreement,” he said.
The Fund extended two loans in 2007 to help grow Thomas’ now-defunct transportation concern, Cedrick’s Charter Bus Service.
It’s not known how many payments were made. However, a judgment allowing the Fund to collect on the loans was issued in October.
The case has dragged on partly because Thomas refused to supply financial information, public records show, putting him at risk of court-ordered sanctions. In March, the same day Thomas eked out a hair’s breadth re-election win, the Fund’s attorney was asking that a judge force him to turn over the data.
Thomas, though, said he balked at signing off on a deal largely because $29,631 in interest has been attached to the $175,440 owed. The settlement the Fund proposed, he said, would have him paying off the notes “for the rest of my life.”
Court records indicate Thomas did not put his home up as collateral, as many other Fund loan recipients did. However, Lia Gaines, executive director of the Fund, said that Thomas personally guaranteed the loan. Responds Thomas, who works as head of code enforcement for the town of South Bay, “I don’t have anything but my home and my job.”
The busing business has twice landed Thomas in hot water. While a police officer with the Riviera Beach Police Department, he was suspended after failing to tell superiors about his side bus operation. In 2007, after he won election to the city council, questions were raised about whether his $97,200 bus contract with the Riviera Beach Maritime Academy posed a conflict of interest: the charter school had been funded by a private developer working on a massive city redevelopment project. In what was described as an “informal” ruling requested by Thomas, the Florida Commission on Ethics determined that there was no conflict.
Funding the business “is one of the larger loans that we have done,” said Gaines. “We were trying to be able to serve his business and create some jobs and unfortunately that did not pan out. This is apparently what it has come to.”[/cleeng_content]