Vero Beach councilman continues legal battle against city

VERO BEACH — Vero Beach City Councilman Brian Heady is continuing his legal battle against the city he was elected to serve.

Heady filed an amended complaint to the federal court this week, following a judge’s ruling that only Heady’s complaint pertaining to his perceived limits of free speech could be heard in the court. In the 36-page amended complaint, Heady reasserts that he has been essentially muzzled by the other members of the Vero Beach City Council who interrupt or altogether restrict his ability to ask questions from the dais.

“The City completely rejects Mr. Heady’s disjointed claim that his freedom of speech has been abridged,” city-hired attorney H. Randal Brennan said.

Heady said that the lawsuit would go away if the Vero Beach City Council would only force its staff to answer the direct questions he has posed on various topics, including the city’s electric contract with the Orlando Utilities Commission.

“The community at large would be much better off if we could get the answers to questions” in a public forum without having to go to court, the councilman said.

He added that the public would not only benefit from having the information available, but also from a cost savings standpoint.

“It’s a lot of money,” Heady said to launch this lawsuit, adding, “It’s going to get expensive.”

Heady has not hired an attorney to represent him, and, instead, has opted to continue representing himself.

While his original lawsuit made a statement that he was not seeking monetary judgment in the case – a statement, Heady said, meant to save the city’s taxpayers money – his amended complaint makes no statement.

Instead, Heady’s complaint is mute on the subject of monetary judgment, leaving it up to the judge to decide if money should be awarded.

As for the lawsuit itself, Heady said he feels confident that the federal judge will move the case forward.

“The judge (K. Michael Moore) already recognizes the seriousness of the issues,” Heady said.

Judge Moore, in his ruling last month, directed Heady to provide more evidence he believes shows his right to free speech was violated.

“While the complaint does not necessarily need to plead facts (on all related points), it must do more than simply plead that Heady was prevented from asking the Mayor questions about a particular topic Heady wished to speak about,” Judge Moore wrote in his findings.

As part of the amended complaint, Heady attached the minutes of the Feb. 2, 2010, Vero Beach City Council meeting and the agenda for the July 20, 2010, meeting.

“Mr. Heady has filed an amended complaint containing more vague, contradictory and rambling allegations,” Brennan said. “Unfortunately, a response to these allegations will require more time and expense on the part of the city.”

Once Brennan files his response to Heady’s amended complaint, Heady will be given the opportunity to file a response to the city.

After that, Judge Moore will be expected to review the arguments and determine how to proceed with the lawsuit.

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