Sunshine Law advocate Michael Barfield, who has entered the lawsuit against former Council members Damien Gilliams, Pamela Parris, and Charles Mauti, says City of Sebastian taxpayers should not be responsible for the violations.
“I’m hopeful that we will be able to recover fees and costs for this particular case from the individuals. We will certainly argue that taxpayers should not be responsible for theses types of egregious violations. At the end of the day, it will be a discretionary decision of the judge as to whether the individual defendants are liable for fees and costs,” Barfield told Sebastian Daily.
Barfield is a paralegal consultant in Florida focusing on the enforcement of open government laws. He serves as president of the Florida ACLU board and an expert on Florida’s Public Records Act and Sunshine Law.
The City of Sebastian is being sued and could on the hook for millions of dollars for the Sunshine Law violations by the three former Council members. They were recalled last month by over 91 percent of the people who voted.
Gilliams has filed other lawsuits saying he was “holding the community responsible.” However, he recently dismissed a lawsuit against Sebastian Mayor Ed Dodd and City Manager Paul Carlisle.
The former Councilman also filed a lawsuit against the PAC recall group, its founder Tracey Cole, the Indian River County Supervisor of Elections, and Jeanette Williams, the Sebastian City Clerk. However, it was dismissed by Judge Janet Croom of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit.
Gilliams is appealing the decision.
What might happen?
As Barfield tells Sebastian Daily, it’s really up to the judge whether the taxpayers of Sebastian will be responsible for paying monetary damages. The City of Sebastian could be removed as a defendant, but it’s ultimately up to the judge.
The city is insured for such cases, but it will cause premiums to skyrocket, or even worse, be dropped by the insurance company altogether.
A time for Sebastian healing
The citizens in Sebastian have been through a lot since last November, and it’s time for healing. The city has three new Council members, and thus far, things are going smoothly.
Bob McPartlan, Chris Nunn, and Fred Jones care a lot about the city and are ready to work for the people. Moreover, they join Ed Dodd and Jim Hill, who protected Sebastian when the Council was in crisis.
It took full community involvement to remove Gilliams, Parris, and Mauti from the Council. Now, citizens are ready to move on and have proven they are the real watchdogs of Sebastian.