By Tim O’Meilia
For the second time in three months, South Palm Beach Mayor Martin Millar’s attempt to remove three planning board members failed by an identical 3-2 vote.
The mayor called for the removal of planning board Chairman Mike Nevard and members Pat Festino and Dee Robinson at the Jan. 26 Town Council meeting after a fourth planning board member, Michael Mead, complained that the three had conflicts of interest in considering a proposed 10-story hotel.
“Why is everyone afraid of an investigation by an independent body?” asked Mead, who said his complaints to Town Hall were unheeded for several months.
The owners of the Palm Beach Oceanfront Inn, whose plans to erect a larger hotel were rejected last year, complained by letter last month that the three planning board members violated state law and were biased against the project. Festino and Robinson live in buildings next to the proposed hotel and Nevard lives across the street.
Millar and Councilman Brian Merbler voted to remove the members. Council members Joseph Flagello, Donald Clayman and Charles McCrosson opposed the removal.
In November, the council asked the state ethics commission to review the actions of the planning board members. In response, the general counsel for the ethics board said an advisory opinion could not be given because the facts in the case are in dispute.
He said a formal complaint leading to an investigation and presentation of evidence was the alternative. No complaint has been filed.
“The town has spent $2,000 and 11-and-a-half hours of legal resources on this issue. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a dead issue,” Flagello said.