Kevin McCarty, a former South Florida Water Management District chairman who once formed Palm Beach County’s most powerful political couple with his wife Mary McCarty, passed away early this morning after a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
He was 69.
Former Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty, who served time in prison at the same time as Kevin when both were ensnared in a public corruption sweep in the late-2000s that gave the county its nickname of Corruption County, announced the death on her Facebook page.
“It is with a heavy heart that I share with you that I lost my best friend and soul mate of 40 years at 1:45 this morning,” she wrote. “After 20 months of fighting, Kevin lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. He passed away peacefully with me holding his hand, leaving a hole in my heart that will never heal. I was so fortunate to have had the privilege to be his wife and I will miss him dearly. Thank you to the many friends who have supported us on this journey.”
Delray Beach residents, the McCartys rose in Republican politics through the 1980s with their involvement a series of city and non governmental agencies. In time, Mary would become a city commissioner before she was elected to the county commission in 1990.
With Kevin in tow and family connections like Tallahassee uber-lobbyist Brian Ballard, Mary’s brother, the couple quickly established a network of political friends and associates that reached into Tallahassee. In South Florida and statewide, any GOP candidate seeking office would’ve been well advised to seek the couple’s nod before launching a campaign.
Within the next decade Kevin, too, established himself in government. With a professional banking background in public finances and government bonds, Kevin rose to chairman of the South Florida Water Management District in 2005, two years after he was named to the tax-raising board by then-Gov. Jeb Bush. He was also on the boards of the Delray Beach Housing Authority and, in 2007, then-Gov. Charlie Crist named Kevin McCarty to Enterprise Florida, a state-private sector group tasked with creating jobs by luring businesses to Florida.
The couple’s clout, however, started waning about that time as FBI agents turned their attention to political corruption in Palm Beach County.
They took down then-County Commissioner Tony Masilotti first, then looked at others on the commission. The McCarty’s finances caught the attention of authorities, and eventually Kevin was accused of profiting from his wife’s votes and making it possible for her to hide conflicts of interest.
The allegations included Kevin receiving more than $270,000 from commissions on the sale of Palm Beach County municipal bonds that Mary voted on.
The couple was also accused of taking advantage of steep discounts in vacation resorts after Mary voted to award hotel contracts to the owners.
Kevin served eight months in prison after being sentenced in 2009.
Mary McCarty served 21 months of a 42-month sentence in a federal camp in Texas.