By Tim O’Meilia
Hoping to put their best foot forward, South Palm Beach council members promoted retired podiatrist Don Clayman to mayor, replacing Martin Millar, who resigned abruptly Dec. 9.
“I am honored to be in this seat,” Clayman said after he was sworn in during the Dec. 15 Town Council meeting. “I will try to live up to the type of people who have become mayors of this town.”
Both Clayman and Flagello will serve the final three months of the terms of their predecessors, whose terms expire in March.
The town charter requires that the council fill the empty slots if less than six months remain before the next scheduled election.
Clayman and Flagello both were approved unanimously by the four remaining council members.
The council immediately promoted Flagello to vice mayor by a 4-1 vote. Councilman Brian Merbler dissented.
“He served an entire full term,” said Councilwoman Stella Jordan, who nominated Flagello for vice mayor. “He had the experience to step in to fill that position even though there are other people who were qualified.”
No other council member has served a full two-year term although Clayman and Merbler are three months away.
Flagello was a councilman from 2008 to 2010, but decided not to seek re-election, citing personal and financial issues.
He said several people asked him to consider filling in. He said he is “kicking around” whether to run in March. He said he was surprised to be named vice mayor.
Millar, who attended the meeting, admitted in November that he violated state ethics laws and agreed to pay a $3,000 civil fine for his behavior during an August 2009 visit to a West Palm Beach strip club and steakhouse.
He announced he would not run again in March but resigned suddenly a day after Town Attorney Brad Biggs told him the town charter required his removal for violating the ethics code.
The charter says, “A council member shall forfeit office if he or she … (B) violates any standard of conduct or code of ethics established by law for public officials, such violation to be determined by the Florida Commission on Ethics.”
Millar disputed that he was forced to resign. “It doesn’t say ‘must,’ ” Millar said after the December meeting, insisting that it was his decision to leave. “I felt it was better to leave now.”
“This is the best decision I ever made in my life,” he said of his resignation.“It’s brought me a good night’s sleep. I feel healthier and less stressed. It was the best thing for my wife, my family and my life.”
The ethics commission found that Millar tried to use his influence as mayor to try to avoid being ejected from the club, arrested by police and to obtain a ride home from South Palm Beach police.
“I made a mistake and I will pay for my mistake. I will pay the fine,” he said. “I felt it was better to go on with my life.”
Millar said he had no regrets for his nearly six years in office, adding that he helped lower taxes and represented the town in the League of Cities.
Millar also paid two fines totaling $450 in 2009 for circulating campaign material without the proper paid political advertisement disclaimer.
Councilwoman Stella Jordan was fined $200 last month by state elections officials for using the name of a defunct political action committee in a disclaimer when she was running a petition drive in late 2009 and early 2010 to amend the town charter.
Both Millar’s and Jordan’s violations were labeled “minor” by elections officials.
Five ethics complaints against town officials — including Jordan, Councilwoman Susan Lillybeck and three Planning Board members — were filed by Palm Beach Oceanfront Inn owner Pjeter Paloka
and remain unresolved.