Vero Beach City Council sets hearing date for Vitunac termination

VERO BEACH — The Vero Beach City Council is hoping to conclude the matter of terminating City Attorney Charles Vitunac during a public hearing at 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 15.

Vitunac’s attorney, Louis B. “Buck” Vocelle sent notice on Thursday requesting a public hearing, as provided for by the city charter after a 5-0 vote on Feb. 15 to terminate the City Attorney.

The charter states that the public hearing must take place between 20 and 30 days after the preliminary vote to terminate a charter officer.

The scheduled date will fall on the 28th day and will give City Clerk Tammy Vock the required 10-day notice to advertise the public hearing.

There was not much discussion on the matter, but Councilman Brian Heady did double-check to make sure that there would be proper advertisement of the resolution and that the city staff would assure that it was legally sufficient and placed on the agenda properly.

The first preliminary resolution was questioned by Vitunac due to these technical elements of the action.

In preparation for the public hearing, Vocelle has requested telephone records for three City Council members – Vice Mayor Pilar Turner, Councilwoman Tracy Carroll and Councilman Brian Heady – to determine if there is any possibility that a Florida Sunshine Act violation may have occurred.

Vocelle has also requested records of terminations of employees age 55 and older in the past 10 years and records of age discrimination lawsuits, presumably to build a case that Vitunac, 63, was discriminated against on the basis of age.

Still pending is a demand letter from Vocelle asking that the City of Vero Beach pay Vitunac a severance package of $88,000 an amount equivalent to eight months of Vitunac’s $133,000 annual salary in exchange for his resignation and retirement.

The City Council has expressed an unwillingness to spend taxpayer money on this severance, which amounts to $5 per resident of the City of Vero Beach.

Vitunac is set to receive about $57,000 in banked sick and vacation time when he leaves the city. If a deal is struck whereby he resigns, he is set to receive about $92,000 as he will be eligible for a greater proportion of his sick time.

The City Council has retained local attorney Helen Scott to advise members on the case, as both Assistant City Attorneys told the council that they had a conflict of interest as they would be subject to being called as witnesses should some legal action be filed by Vitunac against the city.

The City Council meets at City Hall in council chambers and the proceedings will be televised on Channel 13. Later that day, the City Council will meet for its regular session at 6 p.m.

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