Jury selection set for Monday for Gilliams, Parris trial

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Jurors are expected to hear opening statements next week in the case of former Sebastian City Council members Damien Gilliams and Pamela Rapp Parris, who city officials said held an illegal meeting last April at city hall.

Gilliams, who maintains his innocence, said the meeting was not “secret” and that at least six people from the public were present in the city hall chambers.

A jury of six people will be selected Monday, Assistant State Attorney Lev Evans said. The trial of Gilliams and Parris was expected to start Tuesday and last throughout the rest of the week at the Indian River County Courthouse.

Evans said Gilliams, 60, and Parris, 61, both of Sebastian, will be tried together. Last June, Gilliams was charged three counts of violation of the sunshine law and perjury, while Parris was charged with three counts of perjury and violation of the sunshine law.

Charles Mauti, the former vice-mayor who city officials said also participated in the meeting, was issued a non-criminal violation of the sunshine law after he agreed to cooperate with the state attorney’s office. Mauti pled no contest and was ordered to pay a $500 fine, along with $1,250 in investigative costs, Assistant State Attorney Ryan Butler previously said.

The meeting held April 22, 2020, caused community outrage. Officials said Gilliams, Parris and Mauti did not agree with City Manager Paul Carlisle’s decision to cancel an in-person meeting earlier that day because of COVID-19 public health concerns.

Later that same day, the three met in the chamber and agreed to select Gilliams as the replacement for Mayor Ed Dodd. Dodd previously said Gilliams, Parris and Mauti also agreed to fire Carlisle and City Attorney Manny Anon Jr. at the meeting, a claim Gilliams denied.

Gilliams said the meeting was noticed, while Dodd said the meeting was illegal because the public was not notified. The actions taken at the meeting were a violation of the sunshine law and considered void, Dodd said.

State law prohibits elected officials from discussing business outside of a public meeting. Several community members called for Gilliams, Parris and Mauti to resign after news of the meeting came to light.

Residents booted Gilliams, Parris and Mauti out of office in a Sept. 15 recall election. Residents voted in former councilman and mayor Bob McPartlan, and newcomers Christopher Nunn and Fred Jones to replace the city officials.

The city of Sebastian sued Gilliams, Parris and Mauti for holding the meeting. The three former councilmembers countersued, saying the decision to cancel the April 22 meeting was a violation of the city charter.

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