VERO BEACH — The lawyers for and against Vero Beach City Councilman Charlie Wilson agree on two things — the facts are indisputable and the issue is all about interpretation.
Judge Paul Kanarek will preside over the case on Dec. 2 at 1:30 p.m. and is expected to take testimony and hear arguments at that time. His ruling, however, is not expected until later.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said attorney Buck Vocelle, who is representing plaintiff Dian George. Councilman Wilson’s attorney, Charles Sullivan Sr., said he believes they will have enough time to prepare for the hearing, despite having one week from filing the response.
Sullivan said that there are no facts in the case that are in dispute, only that the city’s charter is open for interpretation.
It was “very poorly drafted,” Sullivan said, leaving it open to challenge. He added that the judge would have to determine whether the code is too vague to enforce or not.
At issue is the city charter’s requirement that council candidates live one year within the city “as of” the qualifying period.
George, and the city’s Canvassing Board — which was also named in the suit — argue that “as of” means immediately prior to the qualifying period.
Wilson has maintained that it simply means the candidate must have lived for one year within the city at any time prior to the qualifying period. Wilson has done that, though not during the year leading up to the Sept. 4 cut-off for filing to run for office.
Wilson is a “persona non grata” in the city’s government, Sullivan said, because Wilson is pushing for the city to operate more efficiently than the status quo wants.
“This is an attempt to defeat the public will,” Wilson’s attorney said, noting that Wilson was the top vote getter in the Nov. 3 municipal election.
Vocelle had told VeroNews.com earlier that a hearing would not be scheduled until after all parties in the lawsuit had filed their responses. Wilson is expected to file his response today.
Vocelle explained that his office staff worked with Judge Kanarek’s staff to set the hearing for Dec. 2.
“We’re entitled to an immediate hearing,” Vocelle said.