SEBASTIAN — Voters changed the face of the City Council Tuesday, throwing incumbents out of office and electing replacements to fill their unexpired terms.
Voters replaced incumbents Damien Gilliams, Charles Mauti and Pamela Parris, who had served less than one year of their two-year term.
Replacing them will be Christopher Nunn, who received 2,792 votes; Bob McPartlan, 2,427; and Fred Jones, 2,232, according to unofficial totals. They were among the crowded field of eight candidates running for any spots created by recall of an incumbent.
Parris received the most recall votes, 5,935, with 397 votes against her removal; followed by Gilliams, 5,920 to recall and 425 against; and Mauti, with 5,780 for recall and 537 against.
The new City Council members will be sworn into office Sept. 23. They will serve the balance of those unexpired terms.
Voter turnout was greater than 31%, according to the Supervisor of Elections Office. Most votes were cast by mail prior to Tuesday, the elections office said.
The rare recall election was orchestrated by Sebastian Voters Against Gilliams and Parris, a political action committee born on Facebook. Members of the group spent weeks collecting thousands of signatures on two petitions to recall the three council members they accused of malfeasance.
Gilliams, Mauti and Parris have been flashpoints for controversy since they were elected in November.
They ran, in large part, promising to reverse an 1,100-acre annexation the previous City Council had approved. After a judge nullified the annexation, the council took no action to appeal the ruling, essentially letting the court decision stand.
On a bi-monthly basis, however, four-hour City Council meetings became the norm, with little city business accomplished without disruption and name-calling.
All three of the council members faced charges they violated the state’s open-meeting, or Sunshine Law, by conducting their own City Council meeting April 22 after a scheduled meeting that date had been canceled by City Manager Paul Carlisle. Mauti and Parris plead no contest to the non-criminal violation and were fined.
Gilliams and Parris also face criminal charges of Sunshine Law violations and perjury that are to be heard in a jury trial scheduled to begin Oct. 5. In addition, Gilliams is pursuing legal action to block the results of the recall election, filing an appeal with the 4th District Court of Appeal on September 11.
The robust turnout Tuesday was heartening for retired Sebastian Police Chief Michelle Morris, who was active with the recall group. Citizen involvement in local government is crucial to democracy, she said.
“It’s very important for our citizenry to get out and vote so they have a say in what goes on in local government,” said Morris. “No matter what your political views are, there are many people who have the idea their one vote doesn’t matter, and it does. Whether your government is doing right or wrong, people need to stay involved in what happens.”
Janet Begley is a local freelance writer for TCPalm. If you like articles like this and other TCPalm coverage of Treasure Coast news, please support our journalism and subscribe now.