By Dan Moffett
Ocean Ridge commissioners decided to postpone an appeal hearing for fired police Lt. Steve Wohlfiel after his attorney filed suit, charging the town had violated his rights and denied him due process.
In a declaratory judgment complaint to Palm Beach County Circuit Court, attorney Ralph King says that the town is not following the employee rules in its charter by denying Wohlfiel a hearing during which he could “present and confront witnesses and other evidence.”
The commission voted unanimously to fire the veteran officer in January over his alleged involvement in a shooting incident at the home of former Vice Mayor Richard Lucibella in October. Town police said they found the two men “obviously intoxicated” in the back yard after neighbors called complaining of gunshots.
Lucibella resigned his seat when county prosecutors charged him with felony battery on an officer and resisting an officer with violence, as well as a misdemeanor firearms offense. Wohlfiel, who was off-duty, was not charged, but an internal affairs report was critical of his behavior, citing the sworn testimony of two witnesses who claimed he admitted firing the shots.
King, an attorney with the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association, filed the complaint Feb. 3, three days before the commission was to meet to consider Wohlfiel’s appeal.
Acting Town Attorney Brian Shutt told commissioners at the aborted Feb. 6 hearing that they should take no action until the Circuit Court resolves King’s complaint.