By Tim O’Meilia
Ethics complaints filed against five South Palm Beach public officials by the owners of the Palm Beach Oceanfront Inn were dismissed on all counts April 1 by the state ethics commission.
Investigators found no probable cause that council members Stella Jordan and Susan Lillybeck had conflicts of interest in voting to put charter amendments affecting the motel on the ballot or in being members of SPB Preservation, Inc. – which they denied. They also gained no financial benefit in voting against re-development of the inn property, investigators found.
“For myself and the other four people involved, I’m just glad to see the whole matter put to rest,” Lillybeck said. “It’s behind us now and it’s time to move on.”
Complaints against planning board members Michael Nevard, Dee Robinson and Patricia Festino also were dismissed. The complaints included voting conflicts and benefiting from their votes against the motel’s plans.
“I am very happy that truth and justice prevailed after 14 months of being under a cloud with my integrity questioned,” said Nevard, who chairs the town’s planning board.
Pjeter Paloka, co-owner of the Oceanfront Inn, filed the complaints beginning in January 2010, after his plans to build a hotel-condominium on the grounds of the only commercial property in town were denied for the second time in two years. In 2007, a 14-story project was rejected and, in 2009, a scaled-back 10-story, 99-unit request was denied.
Replacing the 50-year-old, two-story motel was the subject of heated debate since plans were first made public in 2006. In March, town voters approved two charter amendments by a wide margin that ban buildings taller than six stories. The vote, in effect, takes the issue out of the hands of the town council.
But the dispute is hardly over. As promised, Paloka and the inn filed suit March 29 against the town, the five officials named in his ethics complaint, Mayor Donald Clayman, Councilman Joseph Flagello, Town Manager Rex Taylor and former Councilman Charles McCrosson.