By Dan Moffett
Ocean Ridge voters will select two town commissioners from a field of four candidates running in the March 14 municipal election.
All are familiar faces in the community.
Incumbent Vice Mayor James Bonfiglio is seeking a second three-year term and faces challenges from Richard Bajakian, a Planning and Zoning Commission member, Don MaGruder, a frequent contributor to town meetings, and Nan Yablong, who played a leading role in the unsuccessful recall effort against former Commissioner Richard Lucibella.
It was Lucibella’s resignation as vice mayor, stemming from an altercation with police at his home in October, that left the commission shorthanded with four members and helped draw the three political newcomers into the race.
The top two vote-getters will fill the open seats.
Bonfiglio, a foreclosure and real estate attorney, joined the commission in 2014 with Lucibella, and the two became political allies, supporting the ouster of then Police Chief Chris Yannuzzi and the appointment of current Chief Hal Hutchins. Bonfiglio opposed the 2015 recall campaign against Lucibella launched by Yablong and other Yannuzzi supporters who objected to his removal.
Yablong helped gather hundreds of signatures calling for a recall election, but a Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge sided with Lucibella and killed the movement, ruling the petitions legally insufficient. Yablong claimed that Lucibella was guilty of malfeasance in office and had caused embarrassment to the town.
“I had lost confidence in a commissioner who would open our town to hundreds of thousands of dollars in liabilities,” Yablong testified during a court hearing.
During the dispute, Bonfiglio said he “had a hard time finding anyone who would say good things about Yannuzzi,” and later credited Hutchins with “doing a great job of improving the morale in the department.”
Bonfiglio served for a decade on the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, leaving as its chair to run for commissioner. He was a leading opponent on the commission against the Sivitilli family’s continued commercial use of its building at 5011 N. Ocean Blvd.
Bajakian, a radiologist, also has a background in planning and zoning, joining the board as a regular member in 2012 after serving as an alternate since 2006. He has been an advocate of increasing the town’s floor area ratio, a measure of development density. Bajakian believes a higher FAR increases the town’s tax base and helps attract younger and larger families.
MaGruder, a current member of the Ocean Ridge Board of Adjustment, is a frequent contributor to discussions during town meetings. He has been a supporter of license plate recognition cameras for police and tightening security measures throughout the town.
MaGruder has criticized officials for not doing a better job of forcing contractors to fence their construction sites and clean up debris. In recent months, he has successfully lobbied commissioners to fix drainage and overgrowth problems at the Woolbright Road detention/retention pond.
The office-seekers will take questions from the public at a candidates’ forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, on March 9, beginning at 6 p.m. in the Town Hall.