2009 in Vero Beach sees electric rates soar, voters overruled

VERO BEACH – As 2009 draws to an end, the residents and voters of Vero Beach have two things to look forward to – the, perhaps, lower electric bills as the city transitions to a new power provider, and the appointment of a citizen to City Council to replace ousted Councilman Charlie Wilson.

The last five months has seen two new council members sworn in and just as quickly one kicked out, a driver who lost his car to the canal at Royal Palm Pointe, a sexual harassment suit brought against the city, and a battle to keep the fountain flowing.

Looking back at these stories since VeroNews.com launched in mid-July, we can tell which articles and topics were of the most import. And we’d like to share those with you in our half-2009 Year in Review. Heady gains City Council seat in a shocker, Wilson wins with most votes, posted Nov. 3

Perennial candidate Brian Heady pulled a stunning upset Tuesday night gaining 932 votes to join Charlie Wilson, who topped the field with 1,059 votes, as the two newest members of the Vero Beach City Council. A rogue candidate if ever there was one, Heady has run for just about every elective office in Indian River County over the last decade. He has been a fixture at City Council meetings using the opening of his three minutes of public speaking time to bash the Council as a collection of “liars, crooks and thieves.” He collected 21.70 percent of the votes in the seven-person race.

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 For more from Election Night, check out our Elections 2009 Section

UPDATE: Driver of submerged vehicle in canal arrested, posted July 31

Vero Beach police have arrested Brandon Moyer, the driver of a vehicle that landed in the canal behind Royal Palm Pointe early Sunday morning.

Moyer faces charges of driving with a suspended license and recklessly causing harmful pollution, according to police spokesman John Morrison.

Moyer, 28, of 923 Coquina Lane, has been released from the county jail on $1,000 bond.

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City of Vero Beach denies former employee’s claims of sexual harassment, posted Dec. 10

The City of Vero Beach has filed its response to a lawsuit brought against it from a former employee who claims that she was sexually harassed over an extended period of time.

In the city’s response, the city claims then-employee Janet Bickford met informally with City Clerk Tammy Vock to discuss the sexual harassment. But other than that one point, the city denies just about everything else Bickford has alleged.

Bickford has claimed that a member of the Code Enforcement Committee on at least two occasions approached Bickford from behind, called her name and then forcibly kissed her on the lips when she turned to respond, according to her suit against the city.

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Charlie Wilson – voted in, kicked out, will-now-won’t appeal, to run for Commission

Charlie Wilson, the top vote getter in the Vero Beach municipal election, has had it tough since announcing his intent to run for the City Council. He’s been accused of not meeting residency requirements, violating homestead exemption rules and – after being kicked off the council in a court ruling, found his and his mother’s vehicles ransacked.

Wilson tried to argue that he met the city’s residency requirements because he had lived in the city for more than one year prior to filing for candidacy – but that was a couple years prior.

The city argued that Wilson had to be a resident immediately prior – a word that is missing from the city’s charter.

In court, Judge Paul Kanarek sided with the city and removed Wilson from office, effectively leaving a void on the dais.

The council is expected to fill that open seat in January.

In the days following his ousting, Wilson waivered on whether or not he would appeal the judge’s decision. In the end, though, Wilson has decided to move on from city politics and try out for a seat on the County Commission.

He will be running for District 2 – Joe Flescher’s seat. And, by county rules, he wouldn’t have to move into the district until and unless he wins.

READ the following stories:

Vero Beach Councilman Charlie Wilson removed from office, posted Dec. 7

Heady wants open, deliberative process to replace Wilson, posted Dec. 7

Ousted Vero councilman to run for County Commission District 2, posted Dec. 21

For more about the impact Wilson has had on the city council – and city politics – check out our Vero Beach Politics Section


Residents, council members feel pain over rising electric rates

As the summer heated up, so too did Vero Beach City Council meetings. Residents marched in droves to council begging for relief from ever-increasing bills. Council, for its part, tried to assure the residents that relief would come as the heat of summer passed and Vero Beach switched power providers.

Not satisfied, businesses and restaurants started circulating petitions to send to Tallahassee asking for the right to opt out of Vero Beach’s electric grid.

Residents also took to the polls and voted out the two incumbents and voted in two candidates who have been long standing critics of the then-council.

Those two newest members have since pushed the council to reach out to Florida Power and Light and other power providers to discuss the possibility of selling off the power plant – in part or in full.

READ the following stories:

Angry customers speak out about soaring Vero electric rates

Vero sends letter to FPL about selling electric utility

Did the City of Vero Beach get the best deal possible for electric customers?

Grand jury decides to not pursue electricity inquiry

For more on this topic, check out our Vero Beach Electric/Utility Section


Residents trying to cool off this summer heat up over fountain’s possible closure

The water will remain flowing during the warmer months at the Royal Palm Pointe fountain after residents protested the city’s plan to shut down the fountain to save money.

Kids and parents alike donned swimsuits and grabbed up picket signs to demonstrate the importance of the fountain.

In the end, the city chose to keep the fountain flowing by trimming its Fourth of July budget. And while there has been discussion about asking fountain users to donate $1 to the fountain as they use it, nothing has been put in place to take up that collection.

READ the following stories:

Council may keep Royal Palm Pointe fountain by cutting July 4th funding

Royal Palm Pointe Fountain users could be asked for $1 donation

VIDEO: Royal Palm Pointe fountain protest

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