INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- Bill Ockunzzi was sworn in as Indian Rocks Beach mayor at Tuesday night's City Commission meeting, replacing Bob DiNicola, who has moved to The Villages, just south of Ocala.
Ockunzzi had been in his second term as vice mayor when DiNicola made the announcement that he was leaving the city after many years of public service. He had been mayor for going on 12 years.
Jean Scott, who had served on the commission previously for six years, was chosen by the commission to take Ockunzzi's empty commission seat.
Both Ockunzzi and Scott will hold their present positions until next March's election. Ockunzzi can possibly return to his commission seat then, leaving the mayor's seat open. If Ockunzzi chooses to run for mayor, his commission seat will then be open.
Scott was one of six candidates to fill the empty seat. The others were Victor Wood, Pat Muneio, Kurt Grazol, Jose Coppen and Janet Ward.
The method of selection was to have each commission member write down two names. The result was that Scott alone got four votes and was declared selected.
The commission agreed to continue the law suit against the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue district claiming chiefly that the district is misspending funds and is operating outside its authorized area.
While Indian Rocks Beach is paying for the plaintiffs in the suit, the city is not a party to the action. Under the rubric of public interest, the city can act in the interest of its citizens.
The city has no standing to sue the PSF&R because it pays no fire protection fees. But Indian Rocks Beach citizens do and it is on this basis that the city is involved. Ockunzzi and Commissioner Jim Palamara are among the plaintiffs.
City Attorney Andy Salzman advised that the Florida Bar ruled that he could no longer appear on behalf of the plaintiffs because of a conflict of interest. That argument goes that because he counseled originally on instituting the law suit, he stands to benefit by its continuance. Salzman said he disagreed with that finding.
But he suggested substituting other lawyers to continue with the law suit, naming Tom Trask of Dunedin and Jim Yacavonne as possibilties.
The suit was dismissed without prejudice (which means it can be revived) by the Pinellas Circuit Court, but an amended complaint will be filed.
There is also an oversight review committee, made up of members from Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Belleair Beach, Belleair Shore and the mainland -- areas that the fire district serves -- that plans to investigate PSF&R operations and make a recommendation to the Legislature which controls the fire district.
Palamara made a suggestion that the county park opposite Guppy's in the 1700 block of Gulf Boulevard be named after the departed DiNicola in recognition of his service to the city and county.
This drew a negative reaction from Commissioner R.B. Johnson who pointed out that many people make contributions and serve. He said that he doesn't think politicians should have things named after them.
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