Former Sebastian City Council members Damien Gilliams and Pamela Parris will have their criminal trial moved from Jan. 11, 2021, to May 3, 2021, according to Indian River County Judge David C. Morgan.
Morgan said the decision to move the date was based on the expected length of the trial, the high number of witnesses, a recent Supreme Court order further limiting trials, and the fact that a vaccine is forthcoming.
Gilliams is standing trial on three counts of violating the Florida Sunshine Law and one count of perjury.
Parris is facing one count of violating the Florida Sunshine Law and three counts of perjury after she, too, allegedly lied to investigators.
Gilliams and Parris were arrested for the charges on June 17, 2020.
The charges stem from a nonpublic meeting that took place inside City Hall on April 22, 2020. A regular scheduled City Council meeting was canceled earlier by City Manager Paul Carlisle after public outcry from citizens expressing COVID-19 concerns.
Emails collected by Sebastian Daily show Gilliams and Parris allegedly acknowledged the meeting was canceled. However, they had a meeting anyway, without Charter officers, in the dark, and with the doors locked.
During the meeting, they appointed Gilliams as the new mayor and attempted to fire the City Attorney, City Manager, and the City Clerk. The meeting was recorded on video.
Citizens called the meeting an illegal coup, and a takeover of the City of Sebastian during a pandemic. The State Attorney’s Office said the nonpublic meeting was unlawful and violated numerous Sunshine Laws.
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The former city council members and the City of Sebastian are still facing a lawsuit over the Sunshine Law violations by government defender Michael Barfield.
In a separate case, Pamela Parris was found guilty for violating the Sunshine Law with former councilman Charles Mauti. Both had to pay fines, but were a lesser charge than the criminal case now pending for both Gilliams and Parris.
On Sept. 15, 2020, Gilliams, Parris, and Mauti were removed from office after Sebastian citizens voted in a recall election. Nearly 94 percent of voters removed them.
- 5,935 votes (94%) were cast to remove Pamela Parris
- 5,920 votes (93%) were cast to remove Damien Gilliams
- 5,780 votes (92%) were cast to remove Charles Mauti
Sebastian voters replaced the three with Bob McPartlan, Christopher Nunn, and Fred Jones.
Parris has yet to take accountability for her actions by blaming the press and local critics. Local residents say she’s playing the victim again on her Facebook page.
“I believe I have served my city to the best of my ability against all odds, false press, and criticism,” she wrote on Facebook.
Gilliams has tried to sue everyone, including the City Manager, City Attorney, City Clerk, and even the Mayor of Sebastian. The lawsuits were dismissed.
The Sebastian recall was historic and was the first successful recall in the State of Florida. It was also the first time in the United States that the majority of a sitting council was removed from public office.