New Vero councilman questions validity of election certification and mayor

VERO BEACH — Newly elected Councilman Joe Graves is already making waves on the Vero Beach City Council, challenging the validity of the city’s certification of election results and the appointment of mayor and vice mayor.

Graves, a well-known local lawyer, on his first day on the dais as a council member on Tuesday clashed with City Attorney John Turner over the legality of the city’s canvassing board’s certification of election results after the board adjourned Monday before it took its formal vote — a move Graves questioned as legal. Graves also questioned whether the city even had a mayor and vice mayor because public comment was restricted the previous day when the City Council chose Tony Young as mayor and Laura Moss as vice mayor.

“The canvasing board actually adjourned at 10:06 a.m. and it wasn’t until after the adjournment of the canvasing board that the motion to adopt the resolution certifying the election results was made and then voted upon,” Graves said.

“How does an adjourned board vote on something?” Graves later added.

In an abundance of caution, the canvassing board will reconvene Thursday morning to again certify the results of the election in which Graves and Rey Neville won vacant seats on the council. Turner — after taking a 10 minute recess at the new council’s first meeting to review an existing ordinance on the matter — deemed the results were certified, but still upheld the Thursday re-vote to be overly cautious. The ordinance, according to city documents, makes no mention of procedural order. The Indian River Supervisor of Elections has already certified the election results.

“That procedure, although it would have been better had it been adopted before the adjournment does not undo what was done — it does not adversely impact and make what was done improper or illegal,” Turner responded. 

Graves also questioned if the appointment of mayor and vice mayor was legitimate since former Councilman Brian Heady was restricted by Turner from making a public comment during the ceremony. He cited state law stipulating the public shall be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard before a board or commission. Heady was escorted out of council chambers by Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey after arguing he had a right to speak.

“Thank you for an extremely reasonable approach that doesn’t cost the taxpayers a lot of money,” Heady said to Graves, questioning the competency of Turner. Heady was among the field of eight candidates who ran against Graves and Neville in the Nov. 5 election.

The council at its Tuesday meeting voted to appoint Young as acting mayor and Moss as acting vice mayor until the Thursday do-over in which they will be confirmed and the public will have the opportunity to speak.

The unexpected discussion initially left council members confused as to whether Graves and Neville could cast votes and if they were legitimate members of the board. Turner, however, assured the board the two new members were indeed official council members.

“Probably one attorney for City Council is enough and I mean that with all due respect,” Moss said during the exchange between Graves and Turner.

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