Major organizational decision making is rarely a clear cut process fitting neatly into the observer’s perspective of how personnel dealings should be conducted.  Town management makes its decisions based on cumulative experiences that don’t always fit into some easily presentable form.  Officials do not enjoy public rebuking of their colleagues.  All public employees always “seem to be above average” to paraphrase Garrison Keillor.   Major decisions do not come easily to government and all too often are only made when a “final straw has broken the camel’s back.”

Firing the Police Chief was not an arbitrary, spiteful decision made by one or more biased individuals focused on some narrow personal preconception.  In fact this correct decision was made by the people that the Town hired to be the managers of the Town’s affairs.   Effectively you hired them over the years through the election of current and past commissioners who set standards that staff was to use in their day-to-day operations.   This management team makes decisions based on their perception on what is best for the Town of Ocean Ridge.

Following are some of the issues that convince me that the town made the absolutely correct decision in dismissing the Police Chief.  This listing is limited to my observations made over the last three or four years of watching the Chief make incredulous statements and usurping authorities. 

·        The low morale in the police officer ranks is well known and undoubtedly some of it was self inflicted by shoddy performance by a few officers.  Yet in Chief Yannuzzi’s 4 or 5 year reign there has been no turn for the better and one can even readily conclude that morale has deteriorated greatly.  Eventually one has to recognize that management is part of the problem.  Management must be willing to work with the staff and create team spirit to obtain their best performance.

·        In the past when faced with major issues the Chief appeared to create a circus by leaking the issues to the press and postulating impending doom to the Town if his wishes were not adopted.  These machinations are very discouraging especially to the Commissioners who are trying to perform their job and always having to do that in a public forum.   The Chief regularly abused this knowledge by creating a contentious environment for open discussions whenever he felt his interests were at risk.  The Commissioners and staff should not have to fear their police chief especially his willingness to use dramatic and questionable tactics in preserving his job.

·        From my view point, the Police Chief took it upon himself to pursue a resident and sitting commissioner by converting a good citizen act (finding and reporting a credit card on his private property) into a criminal investigation.  Arguably he created this “criminal investigation” from this simple credit card act, so that he could tape his telephone conversation with Mr. Lucibella.  Normally the Police Chief does not conduct investigations himself, yet he chose to do so in this case perhaps hoping that the recorded conversation would trap Mr. Lucibella.   He was successful in inciting his sharpest critic on the Town’s Board of Commissioners, Mr. Lucibella, to lose his temper.  The Chief then used this tape and transcript as evidence in his effort to remove the Commissioner from the Board by reporting him to a number of state agencies.  It is unacceptable for a law enforcement officer to surreptitiously tape a telephone conversation with any resident, especially a sitting Commissioner to silence or remove his critics!

·        During the most recent budget process, the Chief proposed to replace the Town’s dated alarm monitoring system with updated hard and software.   From my recollection, he proposed that the Town must spend something in excess of $40,000 for hardware plus regular visits by the vendor from the west coast of Florida to support the system at something like $10,000 for the life of the contract.  When asked to support his proposal, he explained that through his extensive set of experiences he knew that this was the only vendor and the regular system support was mandatory.  One commissioner, Mr. Lucibella, challenged him that these prices were way too high as to hardware and that the support was not necessary.  This appeared to be run of the mill equipment.  The chief made it clear that he did not like to be challenged but the Town reconsidered and got other offers that reduced the price to less than half of the initial quote.  Bad judgment?  Yes, but critical was that he tried to sell the high prices using his high handed manner which did not allow for a critical review or questioning his recommendations.

·        When requested by the residents and the commissioners to pay attention to irresponsible, if not illegal, activities on the beach, the chief stated that he could not do both, i.e., monitor beach activities and simultaneously provide policing services to the rest of the town.  He appeared to be purposefully dividing the residents of the town to support his contention that there was no crime on the beach.  As the top police officer in Town his responsibility is to manage the resources to fit the needs of the Town including asking for additional resources when necessary.  His job is not to politicize the events and to polarize the Town. 

In my opinion any one of these actions was sufficient for severing his relationship with the Town.  Together they form a clear cut picture of a personality not willing to work with others.  The Chief’s management style in heading the Town’s safety department was not in line with the best interest of the Town.

Now you can continue to criticize the Commissioner who stood up to the attempted bullying or you can try to understand the full story.  Commissioner Lucibella showed remarkable courage and should be commended for not succumbing to the Chief’s efforts to trap him with a false claim of a criminal investigation.  All of us should be offended by the manner in which the Commissioner was secretly recorded and then publicized.


Bernd Schulte

Ocean Ridge

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  • Very informative and too the point letter Mr. Schulte. You summed up the issues perfectly. I certainly hope that the misinformed and prejudiced residents running around the town attempting to get a petition signed, read this letter. Lets put all this behind us and get the town back to what it was before his appointment. 

  • Thank You Bernd Schulte for writing, and Thank You Coastal Star for publishing, this rational and non-inflammatory description of the facts surrounding the dismissal of Chief Yannuzzi. It has been a difficult and sad time for the residents of Ocean Ridge. Chief Yannuzzi's actions, whether you agree with them or not, have caused polarization within the town and the police force, on repeated occasions. These emotions are not in keeping with the friendly character of our town. Hopefully now we can all move forward, together, as residents of Ocean Ridge, and once again peacefully enjoy our great community.

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