Councilman Damien Gilliams Countersues Sebastian Mayor, City Manager

Damien Gilliams
Damien Gilliams

Sebastian Council Member Damien H. Gilliams has filed a countersuit of $30,001 in monetary damages and non-monetary declaratory or injunctive relief. Gilliams is also demanding a jury trial.

Gilliams is suing Ed Dodd and Paul Carlisle individually.

According to court documents, Gilliams argued that Mayor Dodd closed the March 18th meeting illegally. He also contends that the April meeting was canceled illegally.

“On March 17, 2020, the Defendant, Ed Dodd, in his capacity as Mayor of the City of Sebastian, issued a Local Declaration of Emergency,” court documents say.

“The Local Declaration of Emergency was never presented to the City Council for ratification or approval, and at all times material to the Complaint, the Local Declaration of Emergency has not been approved by the City Council as a whole in any public meeting under Chapter 286, Fla. Stats. 12,” the countersuit shows.

However, City Attorney Manny Anon says Mayor Dodd did nothing illegal when closing the meeting.

“The gaveling of the meeting closed by the Mayor was legal, but not consistent with the procedural rules that were previously adopted by the Council. In accordance with (IAW) Resolution R20- 02, Section 1, it states ‘the City Council will follow the current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised as a general guideline in the conduct of all meetings and workshops.’ Further, it states, ‘failure to follow said rules shall not affect the validity of any action taken,'” Anon said.

Sources familiar with the situation said it was legal after the Governor’s Declaration of State of Emergency on March 10, 2020, which grants power to the Mayor or the City Manager without a vote.

During the meeting, prior to Gov. DeSantis announcing the Stay At Home order, Gilliams said he felt uncomfortable having the meeting without public involvement.

“Mr. Mayor, I feel very uncomfortable having this meeting today. I think that if the public can’t be here, I think we should put this meeting off,” Gilliams said during the March 18th meeting.

“This is why I think this meeting, and not having the public here, I think the whole thing should be postponed,” Gilliams added.

Charles Mauti also suggested the meeting be postponed.

“I’m uncomfortable moving forward with any of this right now,” Councilman Charles Mauti said during the March 18th meeting.

At this time, the next meeting for April 22, 2020, was scheduled, but a decision to cancel was made on that day.

On April 1, 2020, Gov. DeSantis then issued a Stay At Home order for Florida to limit all activity to only essential services for 30 days.

“On April 21, 2020, upon information and belief, the Defendant, Paul Carlisle, contrary to the provisions of Section 286.011, Fla. Stats. began polling the city council members on a vote to cancel the meeting,” documents say.

All city council members received an e-mail from Carlisle to cancel the meeting after several requests to postpone the meeting from citizens.

Mauti also wanted the meeting canceled after receiving several e-mails from citizens. In fact, he blamed Carlisle for not postponing the meeting.

“I agree with you … my e-mail to Mr. Carlisle asking for a postponement until the public can be physically present to respond to the Council’s discussion and actions is important … However, it was Mr. Carlisle’s intent to go forth and have a virtual meeting … I had received over 20 texts from residents asking for the 4/22/2020 meeting to be postponed … but I cannot cancel or postpone a council meeting … I believe that action needs the full council vote to decide,” Mauti wrote to a citizen.

During the upcoming meeting, council member Pamela Parris wanted the City Manager to consider health insurance for the council members.

Soon after, Carlisle sent an e-mail to City staff and the City Council to cancel the April 22, 2020 meeting. This e-mail was then published on the City’s website, Facebook page, and the Sebastian Police Department Facebook page.

“Based on the consensus of the City Council and the authority granted by the Declaration of Local State of Emergency, I am directing that the meeting of April 22, 2020, be postponed and all items carried forward to the next regularly scheduled meeting,” Carlisle wrote.

Gilliams told Carlisle that if he cancels the meeting, he will call a special meeting. Gilliams argued that Carlisle didn’t give a 24-hour notice to cancel the meeting.

“If these people wanted to cancel a meeting on March 18 without a 24-hour notice, what was the big deal on April 22? We were ordered to stay home by the Florida governor. It’s clear to me these council members wanted to take over our City during a pandemic,” A resident told Sebastian Daily.

At 6:00 p.m., Councilmembers Charles Mauti, Damien Gilliams, and Pamela Parris showed up anyway and had the meeting. They unlocked the doors, allowed a resident who didn’t know the meeting as canceled in, along with three directors from the Sebastian Property Owners Association who recorded the meeting and then locked the Chambers. The resident thought something was unusual.

During the meeting, which has been dubbed the illegal coup by residents in Sebastian, you can hear one of them say, “here come the Police,” before Gilliams closes the meeting.

During the meeting, they voted to remove the Mayor and fired City Manager Paul Carlisle, City Attorney Manny Anon, and City Clerk Jeannette Williams before police arrived to remove them from the Chambers.

The next day, at approximately 1:30 p.m., Ed Dodd held a press conference declaring he was still the Mayor of Sebastian, Florida.

At 4:00 p.m., Damien Gilliams held a press conference declaring he was the new Mayor and referred to Ed Dodd as “Mr. Dodd.”

On Friday, Ed Dodd, Paul Carlisle, Manny Anon, and Jeannette Williams filed an injunction against Mauti, Gilliams, and Parris.

On Monday, Gilliams’ attorney Craig Rappel said Gilliams is no longer declaring himself as the Mayor of Sebastian, and that the April 22nd meeting is null and void. Gilliams also filed a countersuit the same day.

“For the sake of the community, I will hold off until mediation is completed and if they don’t give us our meetings where we can do City business, I will be right back at the courthouse again,” Gilliams told Sebastian Daily.

The injunction will be decided on at mediation on Thursday.

The State Attorney’s Office is currently investigating Mauti, Gilliams, and Parris for breaking multiple Sunshine Laws during their April 22 meeting.

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About Andy Hodges
Andy Hodges was born in Annapolis, Maryland and raised in Jupiter, Florida. Andy has been a radio & TV personality since the 1980s. He has worked for WLIZ, WFLX-FOX 29, WIRK, WIXI, WKSY, WRMF, and WJNO to name a few. After spending 7 years in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1990s, Andy returned to Florida and settled in the small town of Sebastian in 2000. In 2005, he returned to the broadcasting news sector and eventually joined our news team in 2016 as editor in chief. Andy's family has lived in Sebastian for more than 45 years.