Sebastian Council members Damien Gilliams and Pamela Parris have been arrested following a warrant issued Tuesday by the State Attorney’s Office for Sunshine Law Violations.
Gilliams, 59, and Parris, 60, are charged with breaking Sunshine Laws and perjury. A charge that Gilliams and Parris said would never happen. Gilliams is still professing his innocence, stating he broke no laws.
Vice-Mayor Charles Mauti was charged last month, but it was a civil charge, not criminal. Mauti entered a plea agreement with the State Attorney’s Office for his cooperation with the case. He’s looking at a $500 fine.
However, the criminal charges Gilliams and Parris face are more severe. In fact, being charged criminally for breaking Sunshine Laws is a rare event usually reserved for the most notorious incidents.
The crimes stem from the April 22 meeting when Mauti, Gilliams, and Parris entered the Chambers, unkown to the public, and voted to fire the city staff and appoint Gilliams as the new mayor. Citizens called the meeting an illegal coup and a takeover of the City of Sebastian. Investigators now say the meeting was illegal.
Gilliams is charged with three criminal Sunshine Law violations and one count of perjury.
Parris is charged with one criminal Sunshine Law violation and one count of perjury.
Investigators say Gilliams lied under oath during a statement about the day of the illegal meeting. He said he had one phone call with Parris and stated they did not discuss city business. Investigators say Gilliams made nine phone calls Parris, and one call placed to vice-mayor Mauti.
Parris was charged with perjury after making three false statements to investigators. Parris told investigators that she had no conversations with any other council member on April 22. Investigators say her phone records did show communication.
Parris would then tell investigators that she didn’t know the April 22 meeting was canceled. However, a witness told the State Attorney’s Office that they talked to Parris shortly before the illegal meeting.
According to the State Attorney’s Office, Parris also lied about speaking with City Manager Paul Carlisle several times on April 22, and it caused her to be confused about the meeting. Investigators said phone records on April 22 showed the city manager never called Parris.
Gilliams and Parris have made almost 250 text messages to each other while in office, and approximately 50 phone calls discussing city business outside of the public forum since April.
Gilliams still insists he’s a watchdog for Sebastian and that the sugar sand is a coverup. A lawyer for Henry Fischer, the contractor who removed the sugar sand, warned Gilliams of another lawsuit if he proceeded with his presentation at the last city council meeting. Gilliams went forward, and now the city could be facing another lawsuit.
Gilliams said the lawsuits are being used to coverup the mishandling of the sugar sand, a case that was already reviewed by local and state authorities. The FDLE said Gilliams had insufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal investigation.
Just hours before Gilliams turned himself in, he created a GoFundMe account to ask citizens for $25,000 to cover his legal expenses.
“Councilman Damien H. Gilliams has put himself on the line for the City of Sebastian. He has been trying his best to fight the righteous fight to lead his community away from under the table deals and corruption,” the GoFundMe page says.
“Now is your chance to help! Councilman Gilliams needs your help! Those who don’t want the truth out are trying to silence Councilman Gilliams with lawsuits. Help him raise the money to protect our community. The truth will prevail,” a statement reads.
There have been no donations as of Wednesday morning.
Sebastian citizens are now contacting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to have Damien Gilliams and Pamela Parris suspended and/or removed from public office before the next meeting. We’ll keep you updated.