Gilliams won’t get debate at Sebastian City Hall

SEBASTIAN — City Council Candidate Daimen Gilliams’ request to use the city’s dais and formal meeting hall to debate Mayor Jim Hill was rejected Wednesday by the Sebastian City Council.

City Council Candidate Damien Gilliams requested to reserve the council chambers to have a debate with Mayor Jim Hill

“It’s good for the community. We can debate the issues. We can debate the record,” Gilliams said.

Gilliams said to deny his request would be to deny him, a resident of the city for over 25 years, access to city assets.

“What do you have to hide?” he said, referring to Hill, early on in the discussion.

Hill resisted the urge to take Gilliam’s bait and get into a heated back and forth between the dais and the public podium during the meeting.

“No one’s denied him anything at this point, we’re looking at this matter that was brought to us late,” Hill said, adding that the council would do its due diligence and come up with a conclusion.

“This body will decide this issue very shortly,” Hill said.

Gilliams suggested that Hill might be “afraid to debate me one on one.”

Gillmor asked who would run the debate. Gilliams said he had spoken to members of the local media.

“If we cannot put together a proper moderator, we’ll withdraw,” Gilliams.

Gilliams had not submitted anything in writing, but City Manager Al Minner had put together some basic information to present the question to the council.

Gilliams in May formed a nonprofit corporation, KidsNet50.com, which he was using to make the request.The validity, purpose and operations of that nonprofit were called into question by various council members.

Councilman Bob McPartlan, who supervises investigations for the Florida Department of Children and Families, said he would like to see the financials of the organization.

“Having dealt in child safety and protection, I’ve never heard of this organization being involved in 10 years,” he said. “I have never heard of this organization that was created in May.”

Councilman Richard Gillmor defended Gilliams’ efforts, saying the organization set up to serve the area’s children was a “good idea” and that his colleagues should not “cast aspersions” on the nonprofit in the process of considering the request to use council chambers for a debate.

In the end, the decision came down to a lack of proven experience in putting on a political forum or debate.

Councilwoman Andrea Coy said that in accordance with city policy, the applicant must have experience of hosting at least one prior political debate or candidate forum.

“We established a set of rules and guidelines for holding a political forum or debate in these chambers,” said Vice Mayor Don Wright.

When asked to weigh in on whether Gilliams and his organization had met the criteria to use the council chambers for a political debate, City Attorney Robert Ginsburg answered in the negative. He said the nonprofit had not shown the city council or provided evidence that it had “experience in hosting at least one prior political forum.”

The request was denied by a 5-0 vote.

Gilliams and Hill are two of four candidates vying for two seats up for grabs on Nov. 6. The other two candidates are political newcomers Tim Slaven and Jerome Adams. Incumbent Gillmor is not running for re-election because he is on the ballot as a nonpartisan candidate for U.S. Congress against Republican Bill Posey and Democratic challenger Shannon Roberts.

The Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce and the Sebastian Property Owners Association will host a Sebastian City Council candidate forum at City Hall in the council chambers in late October.

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