David Katz, a former Boynton Beach, Florida commissioner, has been accused of blackmail by the city’s current commissioner, Marlene Ross, news sources indicate. Ross, 45, admitted to investigators that she feared Katz, 61, now a lobbyist, had obtained explicit pictures of herself that he may use to extort her. No photos were discovered in Katz’s possession, but Ross told investigators that Katz made strange comments that suggested he might have the photographs. No evidence linked Katz to the photographs and no official charges have been pressed in the case.
Ross is the current Boynton Beach City Commissioner. She won her seat in a reelection bid in 2011, reports show (she was first elected in 2007). Her current term is set to expire in 2014. In addition to being commissioner, Ross has worked for the WXEL public radio station as the Director of Community Affairs.
Katz served as a Boynton Beach commissioner between 1993 and 1995 sources say. He now works as a lobbyist for the city. Katz has faced prior accusations of wrongdoing, reports say, though he does not have any prior convictions.
Reports say the events leading up to this recent blackmail probe began sometime between 2010 and 2011, close to Ross’s reelection race. Ross told investigators that she had been in communication with a close cousin online and that the relationship, largely conducted over Facebook, became explicit. Ross suggested that the relationship went against her better judgment, telling detectives: “I said [to myself], ‘Oh, come on. This is not right. He’s a first cousin. ‘This is not right. You’ve got to stop.'”
During some point in their communications, Ross purportedly sent her cousin explicit pictures of herself, reports say. Ross eventually ended the relationship, but says her cousin warned her that his wife might have caught a glimpse of the erotic pictures. Ross told investigators that the cousin’s wife was aware of the relationship and that she even got a call from the wife: “She [the cousin’s wife] calls me. And she’s, ‘Oh, I can’t believe you. I never thought you’d do this.’ I said, ‘…let this go.'” Ross went on to say that the wife sent her disrespectful text messages, and at some point told the commissioner that she planned to leak the explicit photographs.
However, no one ever leaked the photos and Ross was elected commissioner in 2011. The idea that the photos still existed continued to haunt Ross, however. In July of 2011, Ross began to suspect that lobbyists and former commissioner – Katz – held a copy of the explicit photographs. “I hoped that I was wrong but my gut and a sick feeling in my stomach told me I could have a problem on my hands,” Ross said in a report. She went on to allege that Katz had been “pressuring me to vote to appoint him” to the city’s charter review committee.
According to Ross, Katz made several more comments throughout 2011 that gave her the impression that he might have the alleged photos. Ross told investigators that Katz, among other things, made a suggestive comment that warned of “consequences” should members of a commission meeting not vote for a friend of Katz. Though it was an indirect statement, Ross says she believed it was intended for her: meaning Katz may leak her private photos, reports say.
An investigation following Ross’s allegations showed there was no evidence indicating Katz had the said photos, sources say. Prosecutors expressed worry that someone may use the photo to exploit Ross. The cousin’s wife told investigators that she had viewed the pictures, but that she did not possess copies of them.