Vero Beach Mayor and self-described “queen” of the City, Laura Moss, finally got called on the carpet this week for her continued dictatorial behavior. “This is not Venezuela, Mrs. Moss,” Councilman Richard Winger said during Tuesday’s Council meeting.
Throughout her term as mayor, Moss has repeatedly overstepped the very limited authority given her by the City Charter. Most recently, Moss took it upon herself to direct the City Clerk’s Office to move a discussion item submitted by Winger farther down the agenda. Winger sought to propose that the Council press forward with completing revisions to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan by its Nov. 7 meeting, so the document can finally be submitted to the state.
When it became obvious Winger’s proposal had majority support, Moss said, “This is why I put this on the agenda under Members Matters, because this is what I thought would happen.”
The problem is that, as mayor, Moss has absolutely no authority to control the Council’s agenda, as City Attorney Wayne Comment explained more than once during Tuesday’s raucous debate.
Moss made clear she takes exception to limitations on her authority. “I don’t think it is an incredible thing for the presiding officer to have the final say over the agenda,” Moss said.
“If a Council member submits an item for the agenda, it is not the mayor’s prerogative to make a decision, for what ever reason, to include it or not include it,” said Council member Tony Young. Young then made a motion to move the agenda item Winger submitted up to new business.
Addressing the Council, Carter Taylor, president of the executive committee of the Indian River Neighborhood Association, said, “It’s time to call the question. This has been turned into a circus and has gone on for too long. Anything that is done in the name of the Comp Plan in the future has to be done through due process of law.”
Taylor then echoed Winger’s concerns that the current Council has little to show in the way of progress. “I agree with Mr. Winger’s characterization that this City Council has pretty much been a do-nothing Council. It’s unfortunate. We had the opportunity to do some things with storm water earlier in the year. It was voted down with the promise that it would be funded through the normal budget process. (That did not happen.) We have focused on a single issue, the sale of the electric utility, and that has been to the detriment of everything else.”
Young’s motion to move forward with the Comp Plan was seconded by Winger, and then passed 4-1, with Moss opposing. As Young’s motion passed, members of the audience applauded. “”If you are going to applaud, you will have to leave,” Moss insisted.
Just as she takes exception to limitations on her authority, Moss also objects to provisions in Florida’s open government laws that prohibit Council members from communicating with each other outside the public eye about City business. “Five people that cannot talk to each other is not necessarily a sound foundation for leadership, in my opinion,’ Moss said. She then went on about how the City, in her view, has lacked strong leadership and about how the office of mayor holds “enormous leadership opportunities.”
Ironically, under Moss’ “leadership” the Council has not accomplished much of anything this year.
Moss was elected to the Council last November, with some 70% of her campaign funds coming from Indian River Shores residents.