Vero Beach City Council settles upon process, will fill open seat in January

VERO BEACH — The Vero Beach City Council Tuesday approved in a 3-1 vote a public-private procedure to seek out and select a new member to fill the seat vacated by Charlie Wilson after his removal from office.Councilman Brian Heady took the lead on this issue, drafting a procedure for seeking applicants and interviewing them in a public meeting, but, over his protestations, Heady lost out. Mayor Kevin Sawnick, Vice Mayor Sabe Abell and Councilman Tom White voted for a proposal to meet with candidates individually in private and narrow down to the top three finalists.

The Council would then hold a public meeting on January 12, interview the finalists and make their selection. Abell said he was concerned that it would not be fair to subject all the applicants to questioning in public on television.

“I think that by the time we get it down to the top three, we can have a humane process,” Abell said.

Heady took exception, saying that part of the job requires participation in public meetings under public scrutiny.

“If they have a problem with answering questions or speaking on television, that’s what we’re about, doing the public business in the public eye,” Heady said.

White and Abell continued to advocate for one-on-one meetings, assuring Heady that nothing “political” would take place if it was done this way.  It was clear that Heady was the lone holdout for having the process in the sunshine.

“I think this is a terrible shame that the council is going to do not having this process in the public eye,” he said.

Prior to the vote, Ken Daige, who came in third in the race for council, and two former mayors — Warren Winchester and Mary Beth McDonald — spoke from the podium urging the council to honor the voice of the people by choosing from among the candidates who were on the ballot in November. Daige openly requested that he be immediately appointed, as he was the runner up.

The option of appointing Daige, or any of the candidates who ran in November, was not taken up for discussion.

Interested parties should submit a one-page resume to City Clerk’s office at City Hall prior to 5 p.m. on Dec. 17. Closed-door meetings with council members will take place on Wednesday, Jan 6.

Requirements to serve on the council include:

– Must be 18 years of age

— Must be an elector of the City, meaning a registered voter eligible to vote in City elections

— Must be a resident of the city with at least 12 consecutive months of residency immediately preceding application as a candidate

The new member will serve until the next election in Nov. 2010, at which time he or she may run for re-election for one of the three open seats. Vice Mayor Abell and Councilman White will also be up for re-election in November.

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