Vero Beach council not on board with moving night meetings to daytime

VERO BEACH – Despite efforts by two Vero Beach City Councilmen, the city’s council meetings will continue to switch off between day and night.

Vice Mayor Sabe Abell brought the issue up at a recent council meeting, asking his fellow members to reconsider the nighttime meetings. “Our meetings have gotten longer and longer,” he said, explaining that the night meetings make for too-long days for the city’s top staff, who have to be at the council meetings.

He requested the council go back to having the meetings at 9:30 a.m. unless there is some compelling reason to have the meeting after 5 p.m.

His request drew support from Councilman Tom White, but not the rest of the 5-member council.

White said that the meetings could be concluded quicker if not for the battling between council members.

“We’re fighting each other here to get business done,” he said, adding, “Staff is looking at me like they’re whipped.”

White told the council that if they were to have the meetings in the morning, staff would be fresh and would have better access to files at council’s request – an issue that came up during an earlier discussion in the meeting over pain management clinics.

Mayor Kevin Sawnick said that while he agreed with most of the points Abell brought up, he is still a proponent of having at least one nighttime council meeting each month.

“I have always been in favor of that,” Mayor Sawnick said, “and continue to be in favor of that.”

Councilman Ken Daige said that whatever the council chooses to do in terms of scheduling meetings, it needs to be consistent – first meeting of the month at 9:30 a.m., second meeting at 6 p.m., special meetings at 9:30 a.m.

“We need to settle on it,” Daige said.

As a compromise, he offered that the council set a cut-off time for the night meetings and advertise that the meeting would resume at a time certain the following day. The suggestion didn’t garner immediate council support.

Councilman Brian Heady also supported keeping the meetings scheduled as is – a morning one and an evening one – to help attract another segment of the city’s population, those who work during the day and can’t attend daytime meetings.

City Manager Jim Gabbard told the council that none of the staff members who are required to be at the council meetings receive overtime pay for attending – it’s part of their salary.

With the failure of Vice Mayor Abell’s motion to have daytime only regular meetings, the council decided to revisit the issue of the start time for the night meetings at the next meeting, June 1.

Night meetings had originally been scheduled for 7 p.m., but due to their length where moved to 6 p.m.

Councilman White told his fellow members that 6 p.m. is not a good time for him, but 6:30 p.m. would be better.

Along with discussing the start time for the evening meetings, the council is also expected to discuss Daige’s recommendation to set a time certain for the night meetings to end and bring back the remaining items the following day.

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