Less than one year into a three-year term, Loxahatchee Groves Councilwoman Joyce Batcheler resigned her position this week.
Batcheler submitted a letter of resignation read by Mayor Dave Browning at the Tuesday, Nov. 6 meeting of the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council. Batcheler was not present at the meeting.
“This saddens me, but I’ve got a letter to read dated today,” Browning said.
Browning then read Batcheler’s letter into the record.
“Effective today, I am resigning my seat as a councilwoman of Loxahatchee Groves as my last official act for the town,” she wrote. “I accepted this position believing that I could assist the residents of the entire town at meeting our goals and to help end the divisiveness that seems so much a part of the makeup of the town.”
Batcheler wrote that the council members should use their power to protect the safety and health of all residents.
“It is my desire to see, number one, that the town become fiscally responsible and healthy, to honor our contracts, to enforce the town’s rules and regulations, and/or [change] them if needed, to carefully budget our resources so as to build and maintain our roads and failing bridges and culverts, to make certain if we borrow any funds, we have the ability to pay such loans back, and unless the majority of the residents want to change it, to refrain from dividing down further from five acres set forth in incorporation,” Batcheler wrote.
“Today, in Loxahatchee Groves, we are considering not only removing the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office but removing all forms of police service from the town charter,” Batcheler continued. “What about the safety of all residents? Additionally, I am not certain how it might affect the insurance or borrowing for the town if those protections are removed.”
Batcheler’s letter asked a series of questions about why it is OK in Loxahatchee Groves, but not in other communities, to dispose of human waste directly on the ground and into the groundwater, have illegal businesses operating throughout the town, build residential structures without permits and allow through truck traffic that allows businesses to bring in debris and garbage from other communities and then dump it in Loxahatchee Groves.
Additional questions asked why rules, regulations and codes are applied to different residents differently. Batcheler finished her queries by asking why the town allows some residents to receive services like garbage collection at no cost.
“It appears civility has been abandoned at town meetings,” Batcheler wrote. “The scene on display at our meetings by some seem to provide no constructive thoughts to solutions and has caused many residents to stop attending meetings.”
Batcheler added that she would hope that council members remember that they were elected to represent all of the residents and not just certain special interest groups.
“I believe my resigning at this time will allow sufficient time for the vacancy to be placed on the town ballot for the March election and thus avoid the cost of a special election to fill the vacancy,” she concluded. “I wish you all great success in saving the town and moving it forward in unity.”
Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia asked Town Attorney Michael Cirullo what the council should do to fill the vacancy, and he said he had just seen the letter and would have to consult the charter.
“I haven’t had a chance to really study the charter,” Cirullo said. “We’ve never had a vacancy in office before, so I don’t want to shoot from the hip.”
Browning said that the council is required by the charter to appoint a replacement within 30 days.
“I was surprised to get the letter,” Browning told the Town-Crier.
Batcheler was reached by phone but did not want to comment further than the text of the letter.
“I’m just afraid it would cause more division in the town,” she said, adding that she decided to run at the behest of supporters and thought she could do some good.
Batcheler, a Realtor and longtime resident of Loxahatchee Groves, took her seat on the board in March 2018 after running unopposed, replacing three-term incumbent Ryan Liang, who chose not to run again.
On Wednesday, the council decided to temporarily fill the vacancy at the beginning of its regular meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 4. The person appointed would serve until the March election.
Several names were suggested, including former Councilwoman Marge Herzog and former Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Supervisor Don Widing.
Cirullo cautioned that anyone appointed to fill a temporary position will have to meet all qualification requirements.
“Whoever gets appointed, they have to go through a process,” he said.
Vice Mayor Todd McLendon said that he was sorry to see Batcheler go.
“I can understand the pressure she was under,” he said. “The people who stood up here throwing bombs couldn’t do it.”