Is this any way to run a city? (Updated)

COMMENTARY

MILT THOMAS

Charles Mauti
Pamela Parris
Damien Gilliams

So far, 2020 has provided more than its share of memorable events, from the tragedy of COVID-19, to the face mask dilemma, Hydroxy controversy and Tropical Storm Isaias, that passed quietly through our area before we even learned how to pronounce it. But if you live in Sebastian, the other most memorable event has been its unmanageable City Council meetings featuring three Council members elected this past November – Charles Mauti, Pamela Parris and Damien Gilliams.

You have to empathize with the good folks in Sebastian, who voted these three into office and ousted three incumbents over their effort to annex 1,100 acres of former Graves Company property in 2019.  They didn’t realize that their rage over the annexation would leave them with a new dysfunctional – but at times, entertaining – City Council. Meetings resembled a weekly TV sitcom (click here for a “review” of the sitcom-like series of events).

Here is some background information before getting into the latest twists: Damien Gilliams was familiar to regular viewers of City Council meetings as the audience member who frequently expressed his criticisms of the City during public comments. When he was finally elected in November 2019, he emerged as the de facto ‘leader’ of the three new members.

Sebastian voters were unhappy with Gilliams and his supporting team almost from the beginning as they often disrupted Council meetings and apparently considered every other City official as incompetent or biased against them. Parris added to voters’ displeasure by reportedly calling Sebastian residents ‘fat’ and ‘carpetbaggers’ from up north. So, efforts were underway to put together a recall petition.

Then came the infamous meeting of April 22 held by these three in Council chambers after hours with the door locked. At that meeting, The two supporting actors ‘elected’ Gilliams as the new mayor and ‘fired’ other key city employees including City Manager Paul Carlisle, City Clerk Jeannette Williams and City Attorney Manny Anon, Jr.

That illegal meeting was a clear violation of Florida’s Sunshine Law since the two other City Council members were not invited, nor the general public.  Sebastian police finally broke the meeting up. Decisions made by the ‘rebel’ council were invalid.

Since then, Gilliams, Parris and Mauti were charged by the State Attorney with Sunshine Law violations as well as perjury and the possibility of jail terms. Mauti later pleaded no contest and agreed to testify against the other two.

Gilliams and Parris were arrested in mid-June with a hearing scheduled for September 2. All three were asked to complete a 200-word essay on why they shouldn’t be recalled. (Remember in grade school having to write on the blackboard 50 times ‘I will always do my homework?’)

To add insult to perjury, Gilliams and Parris were arrested a second time after a repeat performance of their charges on July 8.

Meanwhile, petitions were being gathered by a PAC organized to recall Gilliams, Parris and Mauti. They were ultimately successful in gathering over 10,000 signatures, meeting the threshold of 15 percent of registered voters. They were given five days to either resign or face the recall election.

At this point, the recall election will be held September 2. EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS HAS BEEN RESCHEDULED FOR SEPTEMBER 15) So far, four new candidates have emerged for those three seats. In addition, as of this writing, incumbents Ed Dodd and Jim Hill, whose terms are up, have not yet filed for re-election, so the possibility exists that five seats will be open on November 3. Imagine five neophytes running the City of Sebastian in 2021? Couldn’t be much worse than the 2020 City Council.

Stay tuned for the next installment of The Young and the Restless (Voters of Sebastian).

 

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