Councilman Wilson: ‘What we have here is a coup’

VERO BEACH — City Councilman Charlie Wilson said Monday the lawsuit challenging his eligibility to serve on the city council might have more than one person behind it and he will be asking the council to look at the job performance of City Attorney Charlie Vitunac.

Vero Beach resident Dian George filed the lawsuit claiming Wilson was ineligible to run for the council because he did not meet eligibility requirements as laid out in the city charter. Wilson, however, thinks there may be others who had a hand in the filing.

“What we have here is a coup,” he said at a news conference held in his city council office. “This is their backup plan,” Wilson also said of some within City Hall, explaining he knew there were talks during the campaign that there would be a lawsuit filed if he were to win.

Who, exactly, might be involved, Wilson would not say — except that the names would come out during depositions in preparation for the court hearing. That hearing is scheduled for Dec. 2.

“This is an attempt to politically undo” an election, Wilson said.

Wilson said the day before he is set to appear in court he plans to bring up for review Vitunac’s contract at the regularly scheduled city council meeting due to what he says are various mistakes the city’s attorney has made. Among the items Wilson noted were the negotiations for the Orlando Utilities Commission contract and what he calls the “vague” charter ordinance.

Attempts to reach City Attorney Vitunac Monday evening were unsuccessful.

The councilman said during the press conference the city knew well in advance of his qualifying to run that he did not live in the city one year immediately prior to the election — a fact he says he brought up with Vitunac and City Clerk Tammy Vock.

“The city failed in its duty” to write an ordinance that was not open to interpretation, Wilson said.

“The city had every opportunity to save the public from this worry and division but failed to do so,” he also said during the press conference.

City Attorney Vitunac was the one who wrote the ordinance after the city’s charter review committee tweaked it.

Wilson said that he had met with Vitunac to discuss the matter of the city charter’s residency requirement, during which Vitunac told him, among other things, “we don’t want you here.”

Wilson had asked Vitunac to provide any documents that would support the attorney’s position that the charter requires candidates to have lived in the city one year immediately prior to the election.

Vitunac didn’t, according to Wilson.

“If I had been given one shred of evidence I would not have run,” Wilson said in a prepared statement.

 

He said that in April, he brought up the issue of residency, but it wasn’t until July that City Clerk Vock took the issue to Vitunac.

In a memo dated July 28, she recommended Vitunac issue an opinion on the charter and suggested bringing it before the City Council.

Wilson said in the event an ordinance is written in a way that there are multiple interpretations, a judge should find for the non-writing party.

“The city had complete control over writing the ordinance,” he said.

If he were to lose on Dec. 2, Wilson said he does not expect to challenge the court’s ruling.

“There’s another election in 10 months,” he said — adding that he has not decided if he would run for the Vero Beach City Council at that time if he loses his current seat.

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