By Dan Moffett
The Briny Breezes Town Council is moving forward with two changes that will significantly restructure the way the town has conducted business throughout its 54-year history.
For one, the council voted 4-1 during its Aug. 24 meeting to create the position of part-time town manager, a move that would end Briny’s status as the only municipality in Palm Beach County — and probably the state — without some type of executive administrator.
And, with a unanimous 5-0 vote, the council decided to solicit proposals for legal services, a move that could mean that, for the first time, Briny has a town attorney who isn’t named Skrandel.
John Skrandel has held the attorney position since the death of his father, Jerome F. Skrandel, in 2013. The elder Skrandel signed on as the town’s attorney in 1975 after previously representing the Briny corporation. Together, the Skrandels have had a hand in writing or rewriting virtually every ordinance and regulation in the town’s books.
In recent months, however, the council has drawn criticism from residents and the corporate board for spending too much on legal fees, and much of that blame spilled over on John Skrandel.
Mayor Jack Lee has been one of the harshest critics, claiming Skrandel charged the town too much for research and services that were unnecessary. Lee also criticized the council for considering a proposal to hire a magistrate to resolve building code disputes.
The mayor invited Boca Raton attorney Greg Hyden, who has represented governments in Port St. Lucie and Martin County, to the August town meeting and recommended him as a replacement for Skrandel.
“He agrees with resident concerns for a building permit and code enforcement system, which is much more resident friendly,” Lee wrote about Hyden in an open letter to town residents. “He agrees with everyone that Briny needs smaller government with no need for a town manager.”
Council members voted to open Skrandel’s job to applicants, with the hope of having several candidates and proposals to compare at the Sept. 28 town meeting.
Council President Sue Thaler expects that John Skrandel will be one of them: “I want him to make a proposal,” she said.
Skrandel, who during the meeting found himself in the awkward position of advising council members on how they should go about replacing him, was noncommittal.
On creating the manager position, Alderman Bobby Jurovaty said he spoke with officials in county municipalities smaller than Briny Breezes — among them Cloud Lake, Glen Ridge, Jupiter Inlet Colony, Village of Golf — and found they all have town managers. Jurovaty said the officials were surprised Briny was able to get by without one.
“They all pretty much said the same thing: ‘You need to get busy and hire a manager,’ ” Jurovaty said.
Alderman Christina Adams, who cast the lone vote opposing the idea, said she was concerned about the expense of hiring a qualified manager and providing benefits. Thaler said the money is already in the budget and the candidate could be hired without benefits as an independent contractor. Jurovaty said the manager’s salary range in the towns he surveyed is between $20,000 and $40,000.
The council intends to approve an ordinance with specific job requirements and have the position filled by the end of the year.
In other business, the council will hold public hearings on the 2017-2018 budget on Sept. 14 and Sept. 28, both beginning at 5:01 p.m.
Council members and the corporate board will hold a joint budget meeting on Sept. 7 at 4 p.m.