A meeting of Palm Beach’s town council appeared to lean towards allowing Donald Trump to live full time at Mar-a-Lago despite objections from neighbours – as one of the ex-president’s attorneys claimed he was like the local mayor.
“This guy, as he wanders the property, is like the mayor of the town of Mar-a-Lago, if you will,” John Marion told the council. “He’s always present, he’s ever-present. And he loves it there. And he loves the people that he sees there.”
Those opposed to the former president residing at the private club cited an agreement with the town limiting the amount of time that members may stay there.
The town’s attorney pointed to a separate regulation that allows employees to reside on the premises that specifically mentions those that are “sole proprietors” of the club.
John Randolph said he believes Mr Trump meets the requirements that allow him to live at the property, which has long been his Florida retreat.
Mr Trump has owned Mar-a-Lago since 1985, converting it to a members’ club in 1993 when his financial woes forced him to reassess his assets. It was at that point local authorities imposed the current regulations.
Mr Marion briefed the council on his client’s involvement in the running of the club and the ownership of Mar-a-Lago Club LLC, which was transferred back into his name on 25 January having been held in trust while he was president.
A number of roles that Mr Trump undertakes at the club were listed as evidence that he carries out the duties at the club. These included reviewing financials, recommending events, evaluating employees, and greeting members and guests.
Mr Marion said that he understood what an imposition it was on neighbours having a sitting president regularly visit, but now things are different and the police and Secret Service presence has decreased.
Were Mr Trump to have to move to one of the other four properties he owns in the vicinity of the club, the disruption would be much worse, Mr Marion argued.
Attorney Reginald Stambaugh, representing the neighbours, says that his clients stood by their claim that there were numerous violations of the 1993 agreement. They concede that the property could be returned to its previous state as a private residence, which would allow Mr Trump to live there.
Philip Johnston, representing a group called Preserve Palm Beach, argued that the property could become a beacon for Mr Trump’s more fanatical supporters.
He also pointed out that if the officers of the club’s LLC could live there, then the city could not limit the number of residents.
Margaret Zeidman, president of the council, said that it did not appear that there was a violation of any agreement with the town and that Mr Trump appeared to have met the criteria as a bona fide employee.
“It seems there is nothing therefore that would prohibit him from living in the owner’s suite at Mar-a-Lago,” she said.
It is not clear when a final decision will be made.