By Tim O’Meilia
Q: What’s the best way to fill a town advisory board?
A: Form another board.
That’s what the South Palm Beach Town Council did Jan. 25. They had to. The town charter says so.
It’s right there in Art. II, Sec. 2-9: “To assist the Town Manager in making recommendations for appointment to boards and committees … a citizen advisory council shall be established …”
Never mind that there hasn’t been a Citizens Advisory Council since the early ’00s. The board fell through the cracks somewhere between the administrations of former town managers Margot Beck, Dennis White and Chuck Dobbins.
“I’ve been in town management since 1981 and I have never heard of anything like this,” said current Town Manager Rex Taylor, absolving his predecessors and himself.
The council’s job, according to the charter, is to recruit, screen and interview applicants, review their references and then make recommendations to the manager, who, in turn, makes recommendations to the council.
Trouble is, hardly anyone thinks that a town of 1,531 (according to the 2000 census) with four advisory boards needs a fifth to fill the other four.
“We are about to create another board to recruit for 15 people when we only have two or three openings annually?” said Councilman Brian Merbler.
Actually, Merbler’s count of 15 doesn’t include the 25-member Community Affairs Advisory Board, which organizes the town’s popular lecture and music series. But there will be six openings on the Planning, Architectural Review and Code Enforcement boards in May.
Merbler called the new board redundant.
Mayor Donald Clayman said it was superfluous.
Councilman Joseph Flagello agreed. “But it’s on the books,” he said.
Town Attorney Brad Biggs said the council was bound by the charter unless it is changed by referendum. Two referendum questions are on the March ballot but it’s too late to pose a charter question to undo the new board.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Biggs said. “It is somewhat redundant.”
Credit — or blame — resident Isabella Ralston-Charnley for pointing the charter requirement out to town officials.
“How did they all miss this?’ she said. And a more important question: “Are any of the boards still legal?”
Ralston-Charnley has accused Planning Board members of being biased against proposals to expand the Palm Beach Oceanfront Inn from a two-story motel to a 10-story condo-hotel.
In practice, the council has appointed members to town boards without recommendations from the town manager or any board.
Nevertheless, each council member made a nomination for the Citizens Advisory Council and all five were approved unanimously.
The new board comprises former Mayor Maurice Jacobson, Christian Kahler, Evan Geilich, Greg Harrison and Joanne Hanley.
The new board is expected to meet in February or