VERO BEACH — Supervisor of Elections Kay Clem has asked the courts to dismiss her from the lawsuit challenging Vero Beach City Councilman Charlie Wilson’s eligibility to serve.
Vero Beach resident Dian George filed a challenge to the Vero Beach municipal election regarding Wilson’s residency last week and named both Clem – as Supervisor of Elections – and the city’s Canvassing Board, along with Wilson, in the suit.
Clem filed her response to the suit Wednesday, telling the court that she is “not an indispensible party” to the case.
“All that Defendant Kay Clem did in the instant election is provide the manpower and voting equipment to the City Canvassing Board for their use,” her response states.
George’s attorney, Buck Vocelle told VeroNews.com last week that the only reason Clem and the Canvassing Board were named in the lawsuit against Wilson was so the judge’s ruling would be binding.
“We’re not alleging any wrongdoing,” on the Supervisor of Elections’ part, Vocelle said at the time, adding that the suit is not personal against Clem.
She is considered a “nominal party,” Vocelle added.
For the city’s part, it has admitted nearly all the allegations put forth in George’s suit.
The Canvassing Board, which consists of City Clerk Tammy Vock, City Attorney Charlie Vitunac and City Manager Jim Gabbard, does not dispute George’s claims of Wilson’s “ineligibility for the office.”
They also agree with George’s interpretation of the phrase “as of” in the city’s charter, which states in part that “qualified electors of the city with a minimum of one year residency in the city as of the qualifying deadline shall be eligible…”
George maintains in her lawsuit that “as of” means candidates have to have lived within the city for at least one year immediately prior to qualifying for the election.
The board also admitted that it knew that Wilson had not lived within the city for a year immediately preceding the qualification period, but explained that Wilson has a different interpretation of the city’s charter.
The board’s response states, in part, Wilson’s “interpretation of the city charter residency requirement was that one year could be any time prior, not the immediately preceding one year.”
Vocelle told VeroNews.com last week that it is ridiculous to think that the charter means anything other than one year immediately before qualifying.
He explained that under Wilson’s interpretation, someone who had lived in the city for a year as a child and moved away could come back and qualify to run for council without having lived in the city for long.
Wilson has said all along that he met the city’s residency requirements and was eligible to run in the municipal election. He has not yet filed his response to the lawsuit, though is currently working to do so.
He has 10 days from Nov. 12 to do so or face losing the lawsuit by default.
A court date has not been scheduled with Judge Paul Kanarek yet.
Vocelle said that he would request a date as soon as possible once all the defendants in the case file their responses.