Feb. 4, 2021
PALM BEACH, Fla. — The town attorney of Palm Beach, Fla., John Randolph, has sent a memo to the mayor and Town Council backing former President Donald Trump’s claim that nothing prevents Trump from living full time at his private club, Mar-a-Lago. At least one of Trump’s neighbors has asked town officials to enforce an agreement that prohibits any club members from living there full time.
The issue has put officials in the tony enclave in a tough spot — caught between the contentious and litigious former president and the island’s other wealthy residents.
In his memo to the mayor and council, Randolph agrees with an analysis presented by Trump’s lawyer in Palm Beach, John Marion. Trump bought Mar-a-Lago in the mid-1980s and in 1993 asked for the town’s approval to convert it into a private club. The town agreed. But among the stipulations was one that prevents any member of the club from staying there more than three weeks every year. Trump’s attorney at the time told the Town Council that Trump would not live there and would only use Mar-a-Lago’s guest rooms as a club member.
In his letter to town officials, Trump’s current lawyer, Marion, says that verbal statement, made nearly 30 years ago, carries no legal weight. Because it wasn’t included in the written agreement, Marion says, “nothing that may have been said by or on behalf of any of the parties to the Agreement before it was entered into is relevant.” Marion says the town’s zoning code makes clear that Trump can legally reside at Mar-a-Lago full time.
Palm Beach town attorney Randolph agrees. In his memo to town officials, he says that under the zoning code, private clubs may provide living quarters only to “bona fide employees.” “Sole proprietors, partners, limited partners, corporate officers and the like” are included in the code’s definition of employees. Referring to Trump, Randolph concludes, “it appears the Zoning Code permits him to reside at the Club.”
Palm Beach’s Town Council is set to discuss the issue at its Feb. 9 meeting. Randolph recommends that officials hear from “all interested parties including, but not limited to, the neighbors to Mar-a-Lago.” In December, an attorney representing at least one of the neighbors of the club asked town officials to enforce the 1993 agreement. Among the neighbor’s concerns are a security barrier installed by the club that uses microwaves that may “cause permanent brain trauma and other debilitating injuries.”