Sebastian city leaders urged to talk it out

In an emergency hearing Monday, which took place remotely via Zoom, Circuit Court Judge Janet Croom denied a request by attorney Craig Rappel for dismissal of an injunction filed by Sebastian Mayor Ed Dodd, City Manager Paul Carlisle and City Attorney Manny Anon Jr., against City Council members Damien Gilliams, Pamela Parris And vice-mayor Charles Mauti for Sunshine Law violations.

Ultimately, both sides’ attorneys will attempt, at Croom’s behest, to reach an agreement, and, if they cannot, to sit down with a mediator.

The issue leading up to the hearing involved Carlisle postponing the April 22 city council meeting only a few hours before it was scheduled to begin. Hundreds of residents want council meetings cancelled until after the coronavirus crisis has abated, except in an emergency.

Gilliams, Parris and Mauti disagreed with Carlisle’s decision and, later that evening, locked themselves inside city hall council chambers. There, acting as a majority on the five-member council and stating the situation constituted an emergency, the three voted to fire Carlisle and Anon and replace Dodd with Gilliams as mayor.

Sebastian police arrived just as the surreptitious meeting was closed. At a news conference the following day, Gilliams referred to “the former mayor, the former city manager and the former city attorney.

Rappel, representing the Gilliams, Parris and Mauti, moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the circuit court does not have jurisdiction in the case. Croom denied the request to dismiss and offered a couple of optional open dates next week to continue the hearing.

The attorney representing Dodd, Carlisle and Anon argued that time was of the essence because Gilliams believed he was, in fact, Sebastian’s mayor, an unworkable governmental dilemma which necessitated immediate action.

Judge Croom asked whether the plaintiff’s attorney would meet with Rappel, and with a mediator, if necessary, if both sides agreed to a stipulation that everything that occurred at the lock-door meeting “is void.” Both attorneys agreed to the stipulation.

“I feel confident you all will not put up any roadblocks,” Croom said firmly.

Other lawsuits are apparently being filed on the defendants’ side.

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