Acting Vero Beach City Attorney: Vitunac ‘has left the building’

VERO BEACH — After Mayor Jay Kramer canceled a public hearing Tuesday morning regarding the termination of now-former Vero Beach City Attorney Charles Vitunac, he was the topic of conversation briefly at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“In effect he has, however you want to phrase it, retired, resigned,” Acting Vero Beach City Attorney Wayne Coment said, responding to a question from Councilman Brian Heady. “Retirement would be tantamount to resignation. However you want to phrase it, he has left the building.”

Heady had asked Coment if the form Vitunac filled out last week activating his pension means that Vitunac had not only retired but resigned.

Heady also questioned Interim City Manager Monte Falls about any advice given by the City Council’s outside legal counsel Helen Scott regarding the case.

Falls said Scott told him, “Mr. Vitunac did not have any claims that were not defenisble,” and he added that the City Council was to be instructed to keep discussion about Vitunac’s departure “to a minimum.”

Councilwoman Tracy Carroll tried to stop Heady from asking his questions, based on the attorney’s advice, but Heady proceeded.

Vitunac activated his retirement and pension official Friday, March 11.

Upon separation with the city, Vitunac is eligible to receive a cash payout of more than $92,000 in banked sick and vacation time.

His pension, combined with the monthly retirement checks he already receives from 15 years service as County Attorney amount to about $75,000 per year.

Vitunac had hired local attorney Louis B. “Buck” Vocelle to pursue a severance agreement of $88,000 in exchange for his resignation, but the City Council was not interested in negotiating such a settlement.

The City Council was set to approve a Final Resolution of Removal Tuesday morning, but Vitunac’s retirement eliminated the necessity of that vote. The City Council voted 5-0 to approve a Preliminary Resolution of Removal on Feb. 15.

Vitunac has been out on paid suspension since Feb. 1 when the City Council passed the first resolution to fire him. That resolution was later voided and replaced by the Feb. 15 resolution.

Tuesday’s meeting would have been the public hearing Vitunac is entitled to under the city charter.

The City Council can now begin the search for a new City Attorney. The city is also currently collecting resumes for the Finance Director position and will soon be advertising for the City Manager position vacated by Jim Gabbard in October.

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