Sebastian has survived a lot this year, more importantly, a recall election. When three Sebastian council members attempted to fire city staff, Sebastian residents had their say in a historical recall.
The recall to remove Damien Gilliams, Pamela Parris and Charles Mauti from public office will forever go down as a historical moment. It was the first successful recall in the State of Florida, and it was the first time in the United States that the majority of a sitting council was removed.
While most citizens saw their jobs and businesses dwindle amid a global pandemic, three council members attempted to fire the City Manager, City Attorney, and even the City Clerk.
On April 22, 2020, City Manager Paul Carlisle canceled a regular City Council meeting after hundreds, if not thousands, of citizens called or emailed, asking for it to be canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
Carlisle canceled the meeting, but Gilliams, Parris, and Mauti decided to have one by themselves to fire the city staff and remove Mayor Ed Dodd. They would appoint Gilliams as the new mayor, which was never recognized by the citizens of Sebastian.
Gilliams would then call the media and host a press conference, in which citizens showed up and chanted, “Lock Them Up!”
Citizens would complain that the three council members tried to take over their city during a State of Emergency, calling it an “illegal coup.”
The decisions the three made during that meeting, along with three cohorts who are directors of the Sebastian Property Owners Association, would be enough evidence for the State Attorney’s Office to open a criminal investigation and file criminal charges of Sunshine Law violations and perjury.
Former Councilmember Mauti has cooperated with the state attorney’s office and will testify. Gilliams and Parris were arrested for the criminal charges and will now face trial on January 11, 2021.
During most of the year, the citizens had to listen to Damien Gilliams interrupt the mayor on almost every issue, mostly if it was financial, calling himself Sebastian’s watchdog. City Council meetings lasted for hours because of the grandstanding by Gilliams.
When it came to voting on issues, Parris couldn’t do it alone without help from Gilliams. She would often turn and face Gilliams, as if looking for approval, prior to voting.
Members of the press outside of Sebastian didn’t think a recall would ever happen. At the same time, Gilliams would try and create doubt, saying the recall didn’t have the numbers to support his removal from office.
Supporters for the three – the few they had left – would say the recall was wrong because it was taking away their vote.
Gilliams himself would tell the City Council that he wasn’t going anywhere because he “is a duly elected official.” Gilliams and Parris would then call the recall group a “bunch of thugs” and label them a “hate group.”
When Sebastian Daily raised awareness with the truth about the three council members, Gilliams and Parris would try to create doubt about our news organization by calling it “just a blog” and “not a real newspaper.”
Sebastian Daily remained focused on the story and did receive high praise from local citizens and other news organizations for our continued coverage. The citizens had a right to know the truth and what was going on with their government in Sebastian, and we provided a voice for the community.
When the City Council voted 4-1 to ask Gov. Ron DeSantis to suspend the three council members, he didn’t act. Residents then wrote to the governor, but he never responded.
Then on September 15, 2020, nearly 93% of Sebastian voters recalled all three council members and replaced them with three new people they saw fit to represent them.
Today, Sebastian citizens say that Council members Ed Dodd and Jim Hill have done a great job despite all the chaos that happened during the year. The citizens re-elected them both on November 3, 2020.
One of the candidates who ran against Ed Dodd and Jim Hill was Diana Bolton, who ran on “clean water,” although all candidates want clean water.
Bolton, who has ties to Gilliams in real estate and was a former director under him at the Sebastian Property Owners Association, was also at the infamous meeting on April 22, 2020. Two days after the meeting, she was standing next to Gilliams to offer her support during his disastrous press conference when he declared himself the new mayor.
Sebastian citizens have made it clear who they want to represent them. The voters will never again allow a repeat of what happened during 2020.