Mayor Keith James in crosshairs of Sunset Lounge lawsuit

Deposition shows West Palm Beach procurement official did little to prove case against top-ranked bidder, Vita Lounge.

A West Palm Beach city official disqualified the winning bidder to operate the Sunset Lounge, an iconic nightclub in the city’s oldest black neighborhood, in large part because the bidder’s friends waged a Facebook campaign of support.

However, the city’s procurement officer did nothing to investigate whether those friends were representatives of top-ranked Vita Lounge, a standard needed to disqualify them over prohibited lobbying, procurement officer Paul Bassar testified in an Oct. 7 deposition. Instead, he said he relied on copies of Facebook posts provided by his boss, the city attorney.

His answers place West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James squarely in the crosshairs of a lawsuit challenging the city’s disqualification of the all-black Vita Lounge, one of two bidders seeking to run the long-shuttered nightspot in the city’s oldest black neighborhood. 

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