Lawsuit filed against Vero Council member Charlie Wilson

VERO BEACH — As expected, political rivals of newly elected Vero Beach City Council member Charlie Wilson have filed a suit in circuit court to challenge the validity of Wilson’s candidacy.

The suit names Wilson, the City of Vero Beach and its canvassing board, City Clerk Tammy Vock and Supervisor of Elections Kay Clem. Buck Vocelle, the legal partner of Clem’s husband, Chester, filed suit on behalf of  Indian River Neighborhood Association leader Dian George. Wilson was elected by a wide margin on Nov. 3, along with Brian Heady. The outcome of the election was viewed as a vote for major change in the city. It is not known whether the IRNA financed the filing of the lawsuit or if George, herself, put up the money to challenge Wilson.

The lawsuit claims that Wilson did not meet the criteria to run under the city charter, which states that candidates must live in the city for at least one year prior to filing for office. The charter does not state that the one-year period be immediately proceeding the filing date or election. Wilson lived in the city for more than two decades, moved out after his home was damaged during the hurricanes and moved back into the city in 2009.

Wilson said he plans to forge ahead, doing the things the people elected him to do, including a full examination of whether or not the city should stay in the electric business.

He called the effort “disgraceful,” since the State Attorney’s Office already investigated claims made by two citizens during the campaign that Wilson did not meet residency requirements. Wilson was cleared to run.

During the investigation, Wilson said his house was watched and his neighbors and girlfriend questioned about his habits and where he actually lived.

George is the same person who attempted to unseat former City of Vero Beach Mayor Mary Beth McDonald.

Because Wilson is a sitting council member, it is City Attorney Charles Vitunac’s job to handle his defense. The respondents have 10 days to file an answer to the lawsuit. In the meantime, Wilson said he will remain on the council until and unless the suit succeeds.

Should the lawsuit prevail, it is not clear whether runner-up Ken Daige would take Wilson’s seat on the council or whether there would be a special election.

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