UPDATE: Vero City Council to convene Thursday to discuss Vitunac’s fate

VERO BEACH –The Vero Beach City Council will meet in special call session at 4 p.m. Thursday to redress its Feb. 1 vote to fire City Attorney Charles Vitunac and to discuss a severance arrangement proposed by Vitunac’s attorney.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Vero City Clerk Tammy Vock sent out an agenda for Thursday’s meeting listing only four items.

The first item that needs to be handled is the appointment of an Acting City Attorney. Assistant City Attorney Peggy Lyon, the immediate past president of the Indian River County Bar Association, was reportedly approached about serving in this capacity but was not interested at this time. Lyon works part time for the City of Vero Beach. Assistant City Attorney Wayne Coment is expected to be appointed, as he is the only other full-time attorney in the city’s employ at the present time.

The second item on the agenda is the consideration of a request from attorney Buck Vocelle, who has been retained by Vitunac, for a severance package in exchange for Vitunac’s resignation.

Vocelle sent the request by email on Tuesday afternoon, stating that a severance package similar to the ones offered to former City Managers David Mekarsky and Rex Taylor would be acceptable. Mekarsky received a lump-sum payment of $170,000 and Taylor a full eight months pay.

Mekarsky had an employment contract with the city. Taylor, however, did not, according to Lyons. VeroNews.com had been previously misinformed on that point.

Vitunac has no contract.

Also on Tuesday, concerns regarding Vitunac’s failure to either advise the City Council of proper procedures at the Feb. 1 meeting, or to instruct one of his assistants to do so arose. Councilman Brian Heady went so far as to question whether or not the city could potentially lodge some sort of complaint with the Florida Bar about this matter.

Later Tuesday afternoon, a second fax came into the city from Vocelle reducing the demand for severance to eight months pay, which for Vitunac would amount to about $88,000. His current salary is $133,000 plus health, life and retirement benefits.

Third on the agenda is a request to discuss the possible retainer of outside counsel to consider and/or negotiate any severance deal with Vitunac and his attorney.

Finally, the item which originally prompted the meeting, a discussion of whether or not proper protocols were followed in the Feb. 1 vote to terminate Vitunac. Councilman Brian Heady asked for the special call meeting to make sure that the vote would stick and, if it was determined that the city did not follow procedures correctly, to do the vote over again in the proper format so there would be no question as to the intent of the council.

“I am going to bring this up, that I have a problem with discussing any possible severance package at this meeting,” Heady said. “That was not supposed to be the purpose of this meeting. I asked for the meeting to clear things up.”

The Vero Beach City Council meets in Council Chambers at City Hall and meetings are televised on Channel 13.

Click here to read the letter from attorney Buck Vocelle requesting a severance package, with an accompanying story.

Click here to read a previous story about the special call meeting.

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