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Judge’s language skills to be tested in Wilson case

VERO BEACH — Judge Paul Kanarek’s language skills will be put to the test Wednesday when he presides over the Councilman Charlie Wilson residency case, which could alter the makeup of the City Council. Kanarek is expected to take testimony and hear arguments, however, a ruling is expected some time later.

At issue is whether Wilson had to be a Vero Beach resident for a year leading up to his filing for office or if having been a resident for a year some time in the past qualified him to run for City Council. Wilson, his lawyer and the opposing side all agree he moved into the city limits just days before submitting the paper work to run for office. Kanarek will be asked to interpret the city charter and if he rules against Wilson, it could mean his removal from office after being the voter’s top choice in the Nov. 3 election.

Councilman Wilson’s attorney, Charles Sullivan Sr., said there are no facts in the case that are in dispute, only that the city’s charter is open for interpretation.

It was “very poorly drafted,” Sullivan said, leaving it open to challenge. He added that the judge would have to determine whether the code is too vague to enforce or not.

At issue is the city charter’s requirement that council candidates live one year within the city “as of” the qualifying period.

Plaintiff  Dian George, and the city’s Canvassing Board — which was also named in the suit — argue that “as of” means immediately prior to the qualifying period.

Wilson has maintained that it simply means the candidate must have lived for one year within the city at any time prior to the qualifying period. Wilson has done that, though not during the year leading up to the Sept. 4 cut-off for filing to run for office.

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