After its vice mayor resigned following a shooting incident, four residents are vying for two open seats on March 14 for the Ocean Ridge commission.
In October, Vice Mayor Richard Lucibella was accused of shooting a gun in his backyard while intoxicated. The resulting dust-up resulted in the resignation of Lucibella, who pleaded not guilty. Ocean Ridge Police Lt. Steven Wohlfield, who authorities said was in Lucibella’s yard and drunk, also resigned. Wohlfield is currently suing the town.
Jean Hallahan, the town’s deputy clerk, said the commission decided not to appoint someone to serve the remainder of Lucibella’s term, as his seat was up in the March election.
Those competing for the seats are: incumbent James Bonfiglio and challengers Dr. Richard Bajakian, retired executive Donald Magruder and retired nurse Nan Yablong. The top two vote-getters are elected. Ocean Ridge does not have a runoff requirement.
“They’re not here on a full-time basis, they normally also have other jobs or are retired. They do it for the community,” said Hallahan, noting the three-year terms come with $100 in monthly pay.
Yablong said she is running to provide more geographic diversity to the policy-making board.
“I’m running because I looked at the representation in this small town and it seemed to be concentrated in one little central area,” she said.
She said she has had extensive experience in health administration that could be an asset to the position.
“During my career, I was responsible for hiring, for standards of practice, performance evaluation, that kind of thing, which is probably not up-to-date in our town,” said Yablong. “So I would like to share that expertise.”
Bajakian, a radiologist who runs his practice in Ocean Ridge, said he doesn’t care who gets elected, as long as it’s someone who does their job right.
“I am running for commissioner because I have had a position with the planning and building commission for the last 10 years and I have felt like they don’t listen and ignore our opinions,” he said. “I think that some commissioners aren’t prepared for the job and aren’t taking it seriously.”
Bonfiglio, elected to the commission in 2014, noted that many of the town’s top officials — including the town clerk and town manager — are new. The attorney said he was hopeful that the new administration will help “keep the ambience of the town and the quality of life the same as it always has been.”
He said he is most proud of keeping overly large homes from being built, keeping the town commercial free and spraying to prevent the spread of the Zika virus. He said his professional background makes him the most qualified of the candidates.
In particular, he said commissioners are facing down criminal proceedings against Lucibella as well as a lawsuit filed by Wohlfiel and other legal matters.
“So we’re going to have some significant legal issues,” he said. “I think I can offer some valuable insight as an attorney as to how we can address these problems if they come to fruition.”
Although not a lawyer, Magruder is a former executive at Jones Foster, a legal firm in West Palm Beach. He said his management experience and policy knowledge will serve the commission well. He retired in early March. [Ed note: He is set to retire at the end of this current week.]
“I’m very excited for the possibilities,” he said. “I’ve been going to commission meetings for 31 years on a monthly basis and I am really invested with what is going on in the community.”
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