By Tim O’Meilia
When he figures he’s been wronged, Gulf Stream resident Martin E. O’Boyle goes beyond the conventional tactics of hiring a lawyer and filing a lawsuit.
He resorts to guerrilla warfare: filing scads of public records requests, flying banners proclaiming his argument, hiring protestors to wave signs and video-taping meetings.
The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office and the Longport, N.J. borough commission have been targets of his ire in the past.
Now the Gulf Stream Town Commission is in his crosshairs. In March, the commission rejected his plans for a 25-foot high entry tower as part of the remodeling of his 1983 waterfront home.
“What I said to (the commission) was what I plan is a beautiful building and if you don’t like that I will renovate it in a different fashion where I can still comply with the laws of the United States,” O’Boyle said.
In mid-April, he had a squinty-eyed, white Ku Klux Klan-like hood painted between two upper story windows overlooking his backyard, easily visible by boaters in the canal. Across the hood was lettered “Commissioner Thug.”
Beside the hood was lettered “Stop the Commission” and “This is a satire.” Beneath the hood “WELCOME TO GULFSTREAM” was painted in massive blood-red letters.
A rainbow-hued flag was painted on the doors of his three-car garage overlooking Hidden Harbour Drive.
In late April, the backyard drawings were painted over and replaced with fat-bellied Tweedle dum and Tweedle dee portraits labeled Town Manager William Thrasher and Mayor Joan Orthwein.
The house-painting ploy is just the latest in O’Boyle’s efforts to have his entryway design approved. After disagreeing with Thrasher’s interpretation of the building code, he rained more than 300 public records requests on town hall, seeking documents on variances and town commissioners’ votes dating to 1990.
O’Boyle has refused to pay the $414 bill, disputing the costs. Town Attorney John “Skip” Randolph advised the town not to comply with other records requests totaling more than $1,000 until O’Boyle pays. He also is challenging the $1,700 cost of legal advertising.
In a series of 3-2 votes in March, commissioners rejected three of O’Boyle’s four variance requests, concluding they did meet the eight required criteria.
“I have a problem with the massing of the entryway,” Orthwein said before the vote. She said she feared granting the variances would lead to an avalanche of requests.
O’Boyle insisted that commissioners were substituting their taste for his in the entryway tower design. “It all comes down to a matter of taste. Please defer to our taste,” he asked.
Orthwein declined to comment on O’Boyle’s house painting design except to say, “It’s unfortunate.” Thrasher declined to comment on whether the painting violated the town’s sign code.
O’Boyle hinted that he was willing to challenge an attempt to cite him for a sign code violation. “Maybe I don’t violate the Constitution of the United States,” he said.
O’Boyle used similar tactics in a two-year battle with the New Jersey borough that began in 2007 over a building code citation. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, he filed numerous records requests, several lawsuits and flew a banner over the beach proclaiming the Longport mayor a “puppet.” He also videotaped every meeting.
They settled in 2008 when the borough dropped its code citation and he withdrew his lawsuits. But a legal battle over public records and legal fees raged on for four more years.
In 2011, after then-State Attorney Michael McAuliffe refused to meet with O’Boyle over O’Boyle’s daughter’s DUI conviction, O’Boyle filed more than 1,000 public records requests, flew a banner critical of McAuliffe over the county courthouse and bought advertising criticizing him.
“The Irish guys, they don’t give up too easy,” O’Boyle told the Inquirer in 2008. “A friend of mine said, ‘Irish Alzheimer’s is when you forget everything except the grudges.’”
Asked if he was trying to embarrass the town commission, O’Boyle said, “The commission does a good enough job themselves.”
“I think that’s his purpose: get attention and embarrass the commission,” said Commissioner Bob Ganger, who supported O’Boyle’s variance requests, along with Commissioner Garrett Dering.
“We’d be happy to sit down and work things out. There’s no question that town wants the best design we can come up with,” Ganger said. “No one on this board is trying to make anyone’s life miserable.”
O’Boyle also made a more customary response to the denial of his renovation plan. He filed an appeal April 16 in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, asking a panel of judges to overturn the commission’s ruling. His appeal claims the town manager, who is also the building and zoning administrator, and the commission misinterpreted the building code.
O’Boyle also promised to attend all of the town’s architectural review and commission meetings to help ensure the town codes are enforced on the development requests of others.
His questioning at the April commission meeting forced parts of two site plan requests to be postponed.
“If the mayor wants to enforce the code, I’m a good citizen and I will support my mayor,” he said.