Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sembler lobbyist fee draws feds' interest

Hugo Unruh was paid $100,000 to lobby for one project.

Hugo Unruh was paid $100,000 to lobby for one project.

ST. PETERSBURG — The Sembler Co. is reportedly part of a federal corruption investigation in Palm Beach County after the company paid a lobbyist $100,000 to help obtain approval for a Boynton Beach shopping center.

Sembler, an influential St. Petersburg developer, hired Hugo Unruh in 2005 to lobby the Palm Beach County Commission. Unruh's unusually high fee has drawn the interest of federal investigators, who have spent recent years investigating corruption in Palm Beach, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Sembler, founded by former Ambassador Mel Sembler, proposed the 400,000-square-foot Boynton Town Center in early 2004.

After a community group formed to oppose the shopping center, Sembler officials approached Boynton Beach Mayor Jerry Taylor for his advice. Taylor said he recommended Unruh, a semiretired local lobbyist.

"He is very effective," said Taylor, who was an aide to a Palm Beach county commissioner at the time. "There are lots of lobbyists, but he is definitely the one that is probably the most well known."

The shopping center was unanimously approved months later and is under construction.

It's unclear what Unruh was directed to do or what the $100,000 fee covered. Sembler officials declined to comment.

Sembler is the national developer behind local projects such as Centro Ybor in Tampa's Ybor City and BayWalk in downtown St. Petersburg.

Federal officials do not confirm ongoing investigations, said an official in the U.S. attorney's Palm Beach office.

Palm Beach has had problems with lobbyists in the past. Two county commissioners were convicted of corruption in recent years for their dealings with a prominent lobbyist.

But Taylor said he is confident that Sembler's lobbying tactics were above board.

"We wanted a shopping center because it would increase our tax base," Taylor said. "We couldn't be more pleased. We think Sembler is doing a super job."

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or [email protected] Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Sembler lobbyist fee draws feds' interest 06/11/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 2:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning edges Red Wings on road

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The digs were different, the Lightning seeing the masterfully-done new Little Caesar's Arena for the first time.

    Lightning center/Red Wings’ killer Tyler Johnson gets past defenseman Trevor Daley on his way to the first goal of the game.
  2. Armwood pulls away to defeat Plant 27-7, remain undefeated


    SEFFNER — First-year Armwood coach Evan Davis pulled out all the stops to get his team psyched for Monday's annual grudge match against Plant.

    Armwood defensive end Malcolm Lamar (97) gets fired up before the start of the game between Plant High School Panthers and the Armwood High School Hawks in Suffer, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.
  3. Clearwater police: Car thief dead after owner fires gun


    CLEARWATER — One man is dead after the owner of a car fired shots at the thieves who were stealing it Monday night, police said.

  4. Iraqi forces sweep into Kirkuk, checking Kurdish independence drive


    KIRKUK, Iraq — After weeks of threats and posturing, the Iraqi government began a military assault Monday to curb the independence drive by the nation's Kurdish minority, wresting oil fields and a contested city from separatists pushing to break away from Iraq.

    Iraqi security forces patrol Monday in Tuz Khormato, about 45 miles south of Kirkuk, a disputed city that the government seized in response to last month’s Kurdish vote for independence.
  5. Trump and McConnell strive for unity amid rising tensions


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, tried to convey a sense of harmony Monday after months of private feuding that threatened to undermine their party's legislative push in the coming weeks to enact a sweeping tax cut.

    President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell field questions Monday in the Rose Garden of the White House. “We have been friends for a long time,” Trump said.