The Coastal Star

Along the Coast: Councils seat new members after decisions too close to call

Briny draws name

from bag to pick alderman

Town Clerk pro tem Bobby Jurovaty grasps a piece of paper he pulled from a bag to decide a tie vote to fill

a vacant seat on the Town Council. It had Chick Behringer’s name on it. Town Attorney John Skrandel watches.

Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star

By Dan Moffett

    For what is believed to be the first time in its 54-year history, Briny Breezes had to invoke Provision 32-32.15b to fill a seat on its Town Council.
    Provision 32-32.15b? That’s the section in the town’s code that tells how to handle things when council members deadlock over appointing an alderman.
    How do you handle things? The answer is somewhat biblical: You “cast lots,” the code says.
    It’s something Briny’s founders put in place to ensure the peaceful transfer of power.
    The events that sent Town Attorney John Skrandel digging through the rule book to find 32-32.15b came to a head during the March 23 meeting. Chick Behringer, who has served on the council for almost a year, and political newcomer Gerald Gross applied for the open council seat and tied 2-2 when the council members voted: President Sue Thaler and Bobby Jurovaty backed Behringer; Christina Adams and Jim McCormick voted for Gross.
    “I didn’t expect a tie,” Skrandel said. Neither did anyone else.
    To break the impasse, the attorney wrote the two applicants’ names on equal-sized pieces of paper and put them into a shopping bag. Jurovaty, who also serves as the town clerk pro tem, reached deep into the bag and pulled one out.
    It was Behringer’s, and he was ruled the winner of a two-year term.
    Before the lots were cast, the council offered both men the chance to apply for the open mayor’s seat. Both declined, with Behringer saying, “I thought I can do more good for the town if I kept my vote.” (The mayor doesn’t vote.)
    To fill that opening, the council unanimously voted for a familiar face, Jack Lee, who served as Briny’s mayor from 2001 to 2007. James Arena also asked to be considered for the position but did not come to the meeting to lobby for it.
    As it turns out, a clerical misunderstanding made the use of 32-32.15b necessary. Town officials mistakenly thought McCormick’s seat was open for contest in the March 14 election but actually, it was Behringer’s. McCormick then filed to run to keep his seat — which he didn’t have to — and Behringer never filed to run to keep his — which he should have. No new candidates filed to challenge the incumbents, and so it fell to the council to fill by appointment the opening left by the mixup.
    Confused? So was Briny.
    During his tenure as mayor, Lee helped guide the town through several unsuccessful attempts from developers to buy Briny and build high-rise condos. He said working with Delray Beach and county officials to resolve problems at Dog Beach was his most significant achievement. Lee also said he was proud of the relationships he was able to establish with state legislators and the Florida League of Cities.
    “I’m good at building relationships,” he told the council.
    Lee, 67, has a long career as a mental health counselor and still practices.
    He has been living in Briny Breezes since 1958, when his family moved to Florida from suburban Chicago, an arrival that predates the town’s incorporation and the obscure but useful 32-32.15b.

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