Update: Friday 11:13 a.m.VERO BEACH – City Attorney Charlie Vitunac Friday clarified Vero Beach’s position concerning the status of Charlie Wilson as a member of the City Council — he was removed from office when the judge released his decision.
Vitunac was responding to a request by Wilson to determine his status after Circuit Court Judge Paul Kanarek ruled on Dec. 7 that Wilson did not meet the residency requirements to run for City Council and therefore removed him from office. Wilson had received legal advice that he had 30 days to appeal that ruling and in the interim he remained a member of the council. Wilson had asked for the clarification in an e-mail to City Clerk Tammy Vock on Thursday. Friday morning she sent the following response:
“The City Attorney has relayed to me that the judgment of ouster was effective when rendered by Judge Kanarek. There is no automatic stay. Therefore you were ousted from office as City Councilmember effective December 7th when the judge issued the judgment. The judgment is self-executing and was “served” to your attorney by the court.
If you need anything else, please let me know.”
Wilson’s position centered on advice from his attorney, Charlie Sullivan, Sr., that, based on Sullivan’s reading of the law, Wilson remained a councilman until at least Jan. 7.
“The judge’s order is never final until the time for appeal expires,” Sullivan said.
Wilson sought the clarification because he wanted to talk to Mayor Kevin Sawnick about the city following through on opening discussions with Florida Power and Light about selling the power plant, a move the Wilson ran on as a candidate and which he had put to the Council for a vote. If he was still on the Council Sunshine Laws would prevent Wilson from talking to the Mayor about public business.
“It’s between the two attorneys,” Wilson said of his status. “I just need to know what to do. I just want to do the right thing. Apparently, according to the City Attorney, I am allowed to talk to the other council people, so I need to immediately talk to Kevin Sawnick about this preposterous idea about not inviting FPL as was voted on the Dec. 1 meeting.”
The 58-year-old Wilson said he is still mulling his options with regard to his case, which includes appealing Judge Kanarek’s ruling and asking for a stay of his order until the appeal has been heard. That scenario could keep Wilson in office for months as it plays out.
Wilson is set to announce his decision at 2 p.m. Tuesday on the steps of City Hall.
One of the ironies in this latest turn in Wilson’s council tenure is that he would be able to interview candidates seeking to take his seat.
The council has been criticized for setting up a system of interviewing potential council members in private before holding a public hearing with the top three candidates on Jan. 12.
The process has raised some concern that some of the remaining councilmen might seek to weed out potential members sympathetic to Wilson’s position of getting the city out of the utility business.