SEBASTIAN ― Complying with an order from Circuit Court Judge Janet Croom, the Sebastian City Council on May 14 held its first official council meeting since March 18.
More than half of the nearly four-hour meeting was taken up by public comments about the recent council fights. Speaker after speaker criticized various council members.
Former Sebastian Police Chief Michelle Morris, who retired on May 8 after 33 years of service, scolded city council members, accusing them of breaking promises they had made to Sebastian residents and employees.
“I spoke personally with each and every one of you,” Ms. Morris began, saying she asked each what they wanted to do for this community.
“I’ll tell you what you all said: to preserve our beautiful community; to be the voice of reason; to be transparent; to be an active part of solutions, and to be here for the people. These are words from all five of you.”
Ms. Morris then criticized the council members for recent actions that now involve the court and an investigation by the State Attorney’s Office.
“Sebastian residents do not want secret meetings,” Ms. Morris said. “We do not want discord. We do not want power struggles. We do not want to be an embarrassment. We want to be able to voice our opinions. We want to agree to disagree. We want to be proud of our city.”
The former police chief urged the entire council to drop the personal attacks and power struggles.
“I implore all of you to stop making this personal, and to stop listening to the people you want to listen to, and hear what you want to hear. Be respectful, be professional, do what you were elected to do. Give our city the respect it deserves, and stop making a mockery of these meetings.”
After reading the vote totals each council member received in the last election, Ms. Morris asked if those voters would be satisfied with the representation they got.
“You need to ask yourselves how many of these voters are still happy with their vote and the job you are doing. How many of you are hearing positive comments from your constituents?”
“I know it’s not easy to answer to the public, but it is your job. I’d like to ask each of you to say one positive thing about each other, and about each of our charter members, before you utter a terse word or you move on major decisions.”
Ms. Morris asked the council to reconsider the path it was now on.
“We all deserve a second chance, and now is your second chance to right was has been wrong, and not to point fingers anymore. Let’s move forward with doing what Sebastian needs, and that is for you to work for us, and not be rude, condescending, or unprofessional.”
Ms. Morris then took aim at the attempt by Councilmembers Damien Gilliams and Pamela Parris and Vice Mayor Charles Mauti to fire City Attorney Manny Anon.
“We should never fire people without cause, or because you don’t like them or what they stand for,” Ms. Morris said.
Regarding another contentious agenda issue, a suggestion by Councilmember Gilliams limiting public comments regarding resolutions to city residents, Ms. Morris said “We should not limit public input to only residents. There are many business owners and property owners here.”
Finally, the former police chief closed with what seemed like a hint that she would become more involved in Sebastian politics.
“My last comment is to you all. You know me. You know I love Sebastian. And I can and will not sit idly by while you all push our community to suffering. I’m now retired, I have a lot of time on my hands, and I know a lot of people. So now’s our chance to get back on track and do what we need to do for all of our citizens.”
The next speaker, former council member Andrea Coy, began by thanking Chief Morris for her 33 years of service to the city, which received a hardy round of applause. Chief Morris retired May 8 and was succeeded by Dan Acosta.