A story in the April Coastal Star misstated the reason the town of Ocean Ridge paid $50,000 in legal fees to Commissioner Richard Lucibella’s attorney. The payment was reimbursement for Lucibella’s legal defense of a failed recall effort against him last year. The fees were not due to his lawsuit against the recall’s organizers, which also named the town clerk as a defendant because of her ministerial role in certifying elections.
By Dan Moffett
Political newcomer Steve Coz pulled off an upset in the March 15 election when he ousted Ocean Ridge Vice Mayor Lynn Allison, who held a seat on the Town Commission since 2004.
Coz, 58, a 31-year resident of Ocean Ridge who has served on town zoning and adjustment boards, captured 55 percent of the vote in defeating Allison, 445-358, a strong turnout of 54 percent of registered voters.
“It’s disappointing. We worked very hard,” said Allison. “But I’m hopeful the new commissioner will keep some of the promises he’s made and work for the good of the town.”
Coz, the president of a publishing company, won the endorsements of the four other commission members and campaigned on a commitment to work toward preparing the town for projected development and population growth across the bridge.
“It’s not Ocean Ridge residents causing the trespass problems at McCormick Mile Beach Club,” he told voters. “It’s not Ocean Ridge residents robbing our children at gunpoint in the center of town. It’s not Ocean Ridge gangs breaking into cars at the south end of town. We have serious problems past our town limits. Outside population pressure will define our town in the years to come.”
Allison was sympathetic last year toward the failed recall efforts against Commissioner Richard Lucibella, a movement that grew out of the forced resignation of Police Chief Chris Yannuzzi.
Defending itself against Lucibella’s suit over the recall cost the town some $50,000 in legal fees and also a toll in political acrimony within the commission.
Mayor Geoff Pugh believes neither the recall dispute nor the commissioners’ support for Coz dictated the outcome.
“Those issues are relegated to a small volume of the population,” Pugh said. “The large volume of voters gets direction on who to vote for from their neighbors. Petty backbiting is relegated to just a very few. I think most people just believed that maybe, after 12 years, it was time for someone else.” Pugh credited Coz with running a forward-looking campaign that did not revisit the town’s political turmoil.
“Mr. Coz got out there and was more upbeat than Lynn,” Pugh said. “Lynn Allison gave 12 years of her life to the town of Ocean Ridge and was an excellent commissioner. One reason she lost was that people want to see change.” Pugh said he’s hopeful that the newly formed commission will work for Ocean Ridge’s best interests.
“We don’t have a lot of big issues. But in a small town, issues are created — especially in a paradise, they’re created,” he said. “My biggest concern is when people come (onto the commission) that they do it for the town and don’t do it for their ego.”