VERO BEACH — About 20 people, half of those members of the media, showed up for former City Councilman Charlie Wilson’s press conference on the steps of City Hall announcing he will seek a stay restoring him to his City Council seat pending an appeal.
A few of the faces were familiar, citizens who have spoken out at city council meetings and homeowner association meetings about soaring electric rates. Others like former Councilman and runner-up in the Nov. 3 election Ken Daige were there out of curiosity. “I just wanted to hear what he had to say,” Daige said.
As for his reaction to the appeal announcement, Daige said, “that’s the process,” and then added that he thought the council’s efforts to turn back to the era of backroom deals probably fueled Wilson’s desire to appeal.
Daige wanted the council members to “honor the voice of the voters” by appointing him to the vacant seat, as he was the next-highest vote getter. Instead, the council opted for taking applicants from the general public and screening them in private.
Wilson confirmed that this retreat from the openness he tried to create in his short time on the council was a factor. So was the fact that the city has not yet notified Florida Power and Light of the council’s Dec. 1 vote to extend an invitation for FPL to come in to study and value the city’s electric utility, with the option to consider a sale.
Activist Glenn Heran, who owns property in the city but is not a city resident, said it would be great to have Wilson back on the council if his stay is granted.
Heran has advocated for the city selling its electric utility — or even giving it away — and finding a way to sign on with FPL as Heran, a CPA, estimates the local economy is losing $20 million to $35 million per year every year that ratepayers are charged more than FPL customers just a few miles away.
“It’s his constitutional right to have his appeal heard,” Heran said. “And he is the major reason for having FPL engaged, so to have him back up there again would help get the city business going again.”
Wilson stated that he would help others who choose to run for the three seats up that will be for grabs in November, but that he didn’t expect much to change until there are “two new city council members and two city staff retirements.”
When asked for clarification on who those retirements would be, Wilson stated City Manager Jim Gabbard and City Attorney Charlie Vitunac.
Gabbard was not available to comment, as he was out of the office for health reasons, but his office said they were aware that the press conference was taking place but did not know that Wilson intended to appeal.
Vitunac had left for the day when his office was called for a comment.