By Dan Moffett

    Ocean Ridge commissioners didn’t have to look far to find the  successor for retiring Town Attorney Ken Spillias. They realized the right man for the job was already working in Town Hall.
    Glen Torcivia, who has served as the town’s special magistrate for code cases over most of the last decade, was commissioners’ choice for the position.
    Mayor Geoff Pugh said choosing Torcivia allows “the easiest transition” during a period in which Ocean Ridge has also had to replace its police chief, clerk and manager. Pugh said that besides Torcivia’s knowledge of the town’s code and issues important to the commission, he already has relationships with staff and residents.
    Commissioner James Bonfiglio, a lawyer, said Torcivia’s knowledge of Ocean Ridge will save the town money because  of the research he doesn’t have to do. Bonfiglio said commissioners are also getting a seasoned trial lawyer.
    “I’ve known Glen for years,” he said, “and the thing that impresses me is that he has tried hundreds of cases, both jury and non-jury.”
    Torcivia told the commission that while he loves trying cases, his goal for Ocean Ridge will be to avoid it.
    “I love the courtroom,” he said. “There’s no place I’d rather be than in a trial. But it’s the worst place for a client.”
    Torcivia earned his law degree from Union University in Albany, N.Y., in 1979 and started a law firm in West Palm Beach (Torcivia, Donlon, Goddeau & Ansay) after a five-year stint as an assistant attorney for Palm Beach County. He also was the Palm Beach County Health Care District’s first attorney.
    Torcivia is also the attorney for Highland Beach, Lake Worth, Palm Springs and Belle Glade, among other municipalities.
     Commissioners held a special meeting Jan. 24 to interview candidates for the opening, and Torcivia told them the expertise of colleagues at his firm would benefit the town. Carolyn Ansay is a specialist in environmental law who worked for years as general counsel to the South Florida Water Management District. Ansay’s experience could be useful as Ocean Ridge grapples with sea level rise and a developer who wants to build in the mangrove lagoon behind Town Hall.
     Another lawyer with the firm, Brian Shutt, worked nearly 20 years as Delray Beach city attorney and has a background in labor law and civil rights cases.
     “You don’t just get me,” Torcivia told the commission. “You get our team.”
     Spillias, a former Palm Beach County commissioner, has served as the town’s attorney for 16 years and plans to leave in March. Unlike Spillias who is working this year on a $90,000 salary, Torcivia will work on a flat hourly rate of $190 an hour, and $225 hour for court cases.
    The commission interviewed three other law firms: Corbett, White, Davis & Ashton of Lantana; the Lohman Law Group of Palm Beach Gardens; and Weiss, Serota, Helfman, Cole & Bierman of Fort Lauderdale.
    Vice Mayor Lynn Allison had favored hiring Corbett, which also represents Manalapan and Atlantis. Commissioners named Jennifer Gardner Ashton of Corbett to replace Torcivia as special magistrate. Ashton also holds that position with the City of West Palm Beach.
    In other business: An anonymous donor picked up the $2,500 tab for retiring Town Clerk Karen Hancsak’s farewell luncheon Feb. 29 at the private Ocean Club of Florida.
    On the invitation-only guest list of 45 were all current full-time town employees, commissioners and a half-dozen former employees.

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