Florida town completes legal review of Trump's residency at Mar-a-Lago
Posted February 3, 2021 3:54 p.m. EST
CNN — The legal review by the town of Palm Beach into the use of Mar-a-Lago as former President Donald Trump's permanent home concluded that the original agreement among the town, the resort and Trump does not expressly prohibit him from residing there.
In a memo produced by the town's attorney and posted on the town's website, lawyer John "Skip" Randolph advised the town to look instead to its zoning ordinance, which permits only bona fide employees to reside in private clubs. Thus, if Trump is a "bona fide employee of the club," town zoning would allow him to live on the premises, Randolph concluded.
Randolph recommended in the memo that the town council hear from interested parties, including Trump, and debate the issue further.
A letter to Randolph from Trump's attorney last month argued that the former President is a bona fide employee of the resort and therefore is "clearly entitled to reside there."
The town of Palm Beach will hear the review as part of its Town Council Meeting scheduled for next Tuesday, according to the agenda and supporting documents posted on the town's website.
Trump bought the former estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1985 and turned it into a members-only club in 1993. To transform the private residence into a revenue-generating business, he had to agree to certain limitations, based on guidelines presented as deal-breakers from Palm Beach.
For example, there could be no more than 500 members, there were rules concerning parking and traffic, and club members could not spend more than seven consecutive days at Mar-a-Lago, or no more than three weeks total a year. Trump signed the agreement.
CNN reported in December that nearby residents in the posh Florida town were not interested in supporting Trump making the club his permanent home after he left office. The former President returned to Mar-a-Lago on January 20.
Randolph said the issue "hinges primarily on whether former President Trump is a bona fide employee of the Club." In the two-page legal memo, Randolph writes that town zoning code for private clubs allows "a private club may provide living quarters for its bona fide employees only." He added that the town code definition of employee "includes sole proprietors, partners, limited partners, corporate officers and the like."
Randolph then concluded that "if he is a bona fide employee of the Club, absent a specific restriction prohibiting former President Trump from residing at the Club, it appears the Zoning Code permits him to reside at the Club."
Randolph continued, "After entertaining all of the relevant presentations, the Town Council should deliberate on this matter and determine what action, if any, should be taken."
The legal memo prepared for the town was first obtained by The Washington Post.
Many once-loyal members of Mar-a-Lago are leaving because they no longer want to have any connection to Trump, according to the author of the definitive book about the resort.
"It's a very dispirited place," Laurence Leamer, historian and author of "Mar-a-Lago: Inside the Gates of Power at Donald Trump's Presidential Palace," told MSNBC earlier this month. He said members are "not concerned about politics and they said the food is no good."
Leamer said he had spoken to a number of former members who "silently walked out" after Trump left office.