Transcript of private City Council election settlement meeting shows facts were cherry-picked

COMMENTARY

MILT THOMAS

At the Special Call City Council meeting on November 27, Council decided to offer a settlement to Linda Hillman in her lawsuit against the City, which she subsequently accepted. A transcript of that private meeting is now available to the public (read here). Councilman Laura Moss, at the regular December 11 Council meeting encouraged the audience to read that transcript, saying it supported her position that Linda Hillman alone was responsible for the controversial City election and resulting special election, scheduled for February 26, 2019.

Laura Moss

Having read that transcript over the weekend, it is clear that Moss and Councilman Val Zudans objected to the special election, claiming no evidence supports Hillman’s claim that she completed her paperwork when declaring as a candidate back in July. However, keep in mind that City Council approved the settlement agreement by a 3-2 vote, which Zudans and Moss opposed. It was Council’s opinion that if the lawsuit – Hillman vs. City of Vero Beach, et al – proceeded to trial, Hillman would likely win.

Unfortunately, not all the evidence was discussed at that meeting, so here are some other facts (not “alternative” facts, but real facts) not brought up at the private meeting, most of which led to Judge Kanarek’s decision to place an injunction on recognizing results of the November 6 election:

Val Zudans

At least one person, Zudans, had to know the form in question was unsigned well in advance of the September 7 qualifying deadline because he stated at the August 21 City Council meeting that he had a copy of Hillman’s application. He waited until the first working day after the candidate qualifying period ended before alerting City Clerk Tammy Bursick that some paperwork was not completed.

Ryan Bass, Chairman of the City Finance Commission at the time, told Bursick on September 10 that he made copies of all the candidates’ application forms and later filed an oral complaint to disqualify Hillman. He must have known that five out of six candidates had mistakes on their forms, not just Hillman, so why single her out? And why was he making copies of those forms at all?

It was affirmed in the private meeting on November 27 that the form in question, an affidavit of residency, was created by the City in 2009 after Charlie Wilson was removed from office for failing to meet the City’s residency requirement. It is not a form required by either the County or State. In addition, both disqualified candidates, Hillman and Brian Heady, were known to be long time residents of the City.

Hillman was deprived of due process, according to Judge Kanarek, and that alone was cause for him to order the injunction. The Canvassing Board should have met before disqualifying Hillman and Heady, not in a hastily called meeting after Hillman filed a lawsuit. Had the Canvassing Board met to disqualify Hillman and Heady on September 11 as it should have, the entire matter could have been resolved in time for the military ballots to be sent out on September 18. Also, if the Canvassing Board met on September 11 as it should have, they would have had time to review all candidate applications and discovered that five out of six candidates had errors in their applications, not just the two that had been arbitrarily disqualified.

Instead of the Canvassing Board meeting on September 11 to discuss the possible disqualification of candidates, the Supervisor of Elections was told that day, by phone,** to take Hillman and Heady off the ballot. Hillman filed the lawsuit on September 17 and only then did the Canvassing Board decide to meet on September 20, two days after the military ballots (without candidates Hillman and Heady) had been sent out.

** On September 11 the Elections office required that this last minute ballot change be submitted in writing, which was not received until two weeks later on September 28.

At the December 11 City Council meeting, Councilman Moss implored the audience to look at the transcription from Council’s November 27 private meeting, to prove her point that the law was broken when Hillman left the residency document unsigned. Moss failed to mention any of the mitigating factors listed above, which is understandable (from her point of view) because she is competing against Hillman in the special election and didn’t need to compete against her in the November 6 election.

Judge Kanarek did take these mitigating factors into consideration, which is why he ordered the injunction suspending election results until a trial could determine Hillman’s suit. City Council agreed to a settlement because, according to the above-mentioned transcript, the majority felt Hillman would probably win.

It is time for the two dissenting Councilman to stop complaining about Council’s decision to settle the lawsuit, especially since that settlement included a no fault clause applying to both parties in the lawsuit.

6 comments

  1. Moss,because she is a candidate for the same position that Hillman is seeking should have recused herself from any votes concerning this election. It looks like Zudans played an important part in this fiasco, and he is the one who should be blamed for the $25,000 expense for a new election.

  2. Can someone explain how Zudans is responsible?

    Also, If Moss is disqualified, Young would need to be also, thus eliminating the two people this site seems to like and leaving decisions to the three you don’t!

  3. If you read the prior posts regarding the election confusion, you will note that we indicated five out of six candidates should have been disqualified based on mistakes on their application forms, not two. Only Robert Brackett successfully completed his application.

  4. Milt, Were you answering me? You didn’t address either of my issues…

    Also, Laura corrected her omission PRIOR to the filing deadline (assuming one needs to certify ones self – it’s not very clear)

  5. I responded to your comment accusing me of favoring some candidates over others by saying that five out of six candidates had errors on their paperwork. Laura corrected her omission on the deadline day months after filing. (Why wait that long unless someone else pointed it out to her on the deadline just as Zudans pointed out to Tammy on the day AFTER deadline that Hillman had a missing signature?). However, she Laura was supposed to sign it before opening her campaign account, not months later. I’m not trying to criticize her, just trying to understand why Hillman was targeted when most candidate paperwork had errors.

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