Trove of legal documents says FKAA chairman Dean calls Key Haven his home despite his attorney saying he lives in the proper district to serve and vote in city elections

These are just some of the legal documents in which Robert Dean claims to live in Key Haven.
These are just some of the legal documents in which Robert Dean claims to live in Key Haven.

An attorney for J. Robert Dean, chairman of the board of the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, said Dean always legally maintained his Bahama Street address in Key West proper as his primary residence.

Living at the house makes him eligible to vote in Key West elections and to represent District 3 for the FKAA.

But the home where he receives his $50,000 annual property tax exemption is in the nearby unincorporated subdivision of Key Haven.

Dean’s wife is registered to vote at the Key Haven house but Dean is registered to vote at his Bahama Street house. Dean’s attorney, Bobby Highsmith, said the octogenarian couple is not separated.

Highsmith said this week in response to an article in the Keynoter/Reporter that Dean, 85, is doing nothing inappropriate and that he spends enough time in Old Town that he really lives there. He spends time in Key Haven, too, but considers his full-time home to be on Bahama Street, thereby legally allowing him to vote in Key West and keep his spot on the FKAA board.

But according to at least 11 legal documents, Dean regularly lists his Cypress Terrace home in Key Haven as his address when filling out paperwork.

His colleague on the board, Key West attorney Cara Higgins, said this week that given the prevalence of documents signed by Dean listing his Key Haven address as his home, “it appears that Mr. Dean’s eligibility to continue service on the FKAA board is in question.”

She wrote the comments to Robert Feldman, legal counsel to the FKAA board. One of the documents in question, a July 2011 deed warranty, was prepared by Feldman’s former Key West law firm -- Feldman, Koenig, Highsmith & Van Loon.

“If Mr. Dean does not reside in Key West, but in Key Haven, as it states in the deed your law firm prepared, is he eligible to continue service on the board?” Higgins asked Feldman in the Sept. 11 e-mail.

Feldman and FKAA Executive Director Kirk Zuelch were not immediately available to answer whether they are actively researching Dean’s eligibility to serve on the board. Board members are appointed by the governor to represent a geographic district.

Joyce Griffin, Monroe County elections supervisor, contacted State Attorney Catherine Vogel over questions about where Dean should be voting.

Highsmith said in an interview this week that Dean always votes in Key West.

“Always has,” Highsmith said.

Vogel would not comment when asked about the matter.