Trouble in paradise: Jupiter Island awash in scandal
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Jupiter Island
Antisemitism. Shady public records compliance. The town has a lot going on.

Jupiter Island, a wealthy small town in South Florida north of West Palm Beach, has had a lot of skeletons jump out of the closet in recent months and years, and it’s time to right the ship.

Most recently, the town said goodbye to a Town Committee member awash in allegations of antisemitism. Robert “Robin” Geddes, resigned earlier this month after documents revealed a controversial text message referring to two local realtors as “Jewish real estatebabes (sic.)”

The text said to “Google ‘the Jills’ 2 real estatebabes who sold (Greg) Normans house to Les Wexner,” referencing South Florida realtors Jill Hertzbert and Jill Eber. He also warned that “Miami is on its way here” and “nobody wants this to become Miami North,” a comment some believed was a veiled reference to new Jewish residents.

Hertzberg responded to the revealed text in an interview with WPTV, telling them it was “very disappointing when anyone makes ignorant comments, much less someone who occupies a position of influence and trust.”

To make this situation even worse — and it’s not the only one, so standby — the town defended Geddes even after he resigned, with Town Manager Robert Garlo stating in a town meeting that Geddes’ resignation came “with the sole reason to ensure the town continues operating fully without continuous distraction and harassment from outside parties.”

That outside party is Ethan Loeb who called for action after reading the controversial statement and submitting it to the Town. Garlo not only blamed Loeb for being a distraction, he called on him to offer “myself and every employee of the town a written apology.”

Rightfully so, Loeb did no such thing.

The frustration is at least understandable, though. Loeb, a lawyer with Bartlett, Loeb, Hinds, Thompson & Angelos in Stuart and Tampa, is well known for uncovering scandal in local governments. He was behind corruption exposed in Tampa involving former City Council member John Dingfelder, which prompted his resignation, and brought to light allegations against former City Council member Orlando Gudes of sexual discrimination.

Back in Jupiter Island, Loeb has also been ruffling other feathers, including a public records dispute involving town Mayor, Penny Townsend and her husband, Peter Townsend.

The case is complicated, and there are a lot of moving parts. But at issue are an ordinance approved in 2019, state legislation that would basically enshrine that ordinance, a town effort to thwart the legislation, and a lawsuit claiming the Townsends had violated public records laws.

The town in 2019, when Townsend was a town Commissioner, approved an ordinance adjusting the town’s waterfront setback line. Philip Feldsine, a resident who filed the lawsuit along with Jupiter Island Compound and Dolphin Suite LLCs, needed the ordinance to make improvements to his property.

Townsend, this year after a bill (SB 170) was approved by the Legislature, sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis requesting that he veto it. The bill, which went into effect this summer, essentially validates the town ordinance and how it was enacted.

In the letter, Townsend indicated she was the Jupiter Island Mayor, but said she was sending the letter “in a private capacity.” She argued the legislation only affects her town and asked that he “let us continue with the judicial process,” referring to the town’s legal efforts to unwind the ordinance. She further wrote to DeSantis that the “town made a grave mistake that this legislation will not allow us to remedy.”

Feldsine, through Loeb who represents him, requested the letter after Townsend distributed it to town Commissioners at a meeting that was not noticed to discuss the letter.

Townsend provided a version of the letter to the Town Clerk, who provided it to Loeb. But the letter provided was altered, as discovered by a forensic investigator who analyzed metadata on the digital document and discovered it was shorter than the original and didn’t include bullet points on the document distributed at the meeting providing guidance on how Commissioners could also send a letter to the Governor.

The investigator also discovered the letter had been composed on Mr. Townsend’s computer and transmitted from one of his email addresses.

Feldsine sued and won, prompting an order to provide records responsive to Feldsine’s original public records request.

Still pending are other alleged Sunshine Act violations, which are set for trial in the Summer.

To recap, in just the last few months there has been a town committee member who resigned over antisemitic controversy, a Town Manager who blamed not the maker of the comment, but the discoverer of it, and a Mayor found in violation of public records laws.

In the words of famous pitchman Ron Popeil: “But wait, there’s more!”

Michael Ventura, the previous Town Manager, was fired suddenly just weeks after Anne Scott — a one-term Martin County Commissioner who lost her re-election bid there after a public records indictment for which she was eventually cleared but followed her nonetheless — was elected to the town Commission.

Four Town Commissioners resigned in a two-year period, most recently Maura Collins, who said she was concerned the newly elected Town Commission majority would “expose the town to a potentially enormous amount of liability.”

And back to Mayor Townsend.

The town recently passed a new ordinance codifying a policy to potentially reimburse legal fees incurred by town commissioners and other town committee members if sued in over actions related to official duties.

The ordinance excludes reimbursement for violations of public records laws. But that didn’t stop Town Commissioners at their Oct. 31 meeting from debating reimbursing Townsend for more than $100,000 in legal fees. The Commission tabled the topic after a resident questioned the move.  Weeks later, the Town elected to reimburse Townsend even though the Court had already concluded that Townsend violated the public records laws.

Taken as a whole, there is evidence to suggest that this tiny town — there are less than 800 voters — may need to do some serious house cleaning.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


  • Dont Say FLA

    December 11, 2023 at 5:32 pm

    Had not realized a wealthy small town in South Florida north of West Palm Beach was a Democrat run small town, but I suppose it must be. If it were GOP run, there would be promotions being handed out instead of resignations

    • Julia

      December 11, 2023 at 6:00 pm

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  • Julia

    December 11, 2023 at 5:57 pm

  • Julia

    December 11, 2023 at 6:00 pm

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  • frank fehring

    December 11, 2023 at 6:09 pm

    frank fehring

  • frank fehring

    December 11, 2023 at 6:11 pm

    They’re already sitting on Bay News 9 and channel 18 news they do not even want bite in the Sunshine State nobody wants to listen to his crap his life he’s a con artist him and his son his son ought to be put away for 25 to 30 years for giving a gun to a drug dealer being on drugs and not paying taxes and inviting he’s his dirty ass son they don’t want him in Florida he’s not welcome here in Florida so let him keep his old ass in Washington and then take your wife that looks like a man and go back home cuz you’re going to lose nobody wants to vote for your ass again Trump is coming back and you’re f****** finished and then a White House is going to get cleaned out Trump’s going to get rid of all them f****** and all that mind Grace you’re a president you’re a f****** little weasel f****** low life

    • rick whitaker

      December 11, 2023 at 6:33 pm

      frank, it sounds like you are boiling mad. at who, who knows. your post is utterly incomprehensible. one thing was clear though, trump is your hero. how sad. that makes you a fool.

    • Helen Semrau

      December 13, 2023 at 3:50 pm

      This reply is unreadable and just a run-on rant making no sense.

      • rick whitaker

        December 13, 2023 at 5:21 pm

        helen semrau, iv’e noticed what you said about frank fehring’s comments. i think english is his second language. german might be his native language. either way, a lot of anger there.

  • My Take

    December 11, 2023 at 7:22 pm

    What a bunch of whining snowkarens.
    Would they faint straight away if faced with some real antisemitism? Far less some truly ugly stuff?
    They do an unwitting favor to the real haters, who will point out:
    “See, they sweep away university presidents who dare to say, ‘We’d need to consider the law and rules” (over student NONviolent behavior and NO actual threat). And this guy used the term ‘Jew’ without adulation. Bow, Christians, to your new overseers. Indeed new overlords! THEY are taking control of America! VOTE TRUMP!”
    I’ll bet they are already saying it.

    • Sick

      December 12, 2023 at 1:22 pm

      So trumps daughter is a Jew Trump is going to be a dictator. You want a dictator like Hitler. Please explain why you want to destroy this country?

  • PeterH

    December 12, 2023 at 12:28 am

    News alert:
    Hannah Giles, the chief executive of hateful Right Wing organization, Project Veritas, said Monday she has stepped down from her role at the right-wing group “effective immediately,” after discovering evidence that the organization has engaged in “past illegalities.”

  • Edith and Archie

    December 20, 2023 at 8:28 am

    What’s the matter ? Afraid of a few Jews on the Island? We all know JI was the little sister to Palm Beach Island and it’s antisemitic policies at the country clubs “No jews, No non-whites allowed” . In the words of your former idol “David Duke” WAKE up White People”. It’s only a matter of time before your precious Island is overrun with all kinds of new faces that actually live there too. What’s that “D” word everyone is talking about ? Shhhhh don’t say it too loud…Diversity!

Comments are closed.


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