The City Council voted Tuesday night to oust one of its members, William Wilson, because of misconduct allegations.
Council member Madolyn Salzillo made the motion, saying Wilson had interfered in the day-to-day operation of city departments by giving employees direct orders. Salzillo also accused Wilson of appearing at unemployment hearings for former fire Chief Dennis Smith without council approval.
Wilson offered no defense and even cast a vote to force himself from office. In an interview a few minutes after the vote, Wilson said he didn't think the charter gave the council the power to oust him.
"They're not going to be able to do it," he said. "I categorically deny everything she's said."
Wilson said he plans to keep his seat and said he voted to oust himself because "I don't think I should deny a fellow council person a motion to investigate me _ I welcome an investigation."
Come the next council meeting, he said, and "I'll be in this chair."
Salzillo's motion came toward the end of a meeting that drew a standing-room-only crowd. After council member Patricia Guttman seconded the motion, City Attorney Eloise Taylor tried to warn the council against proceeding further.
The attorney said that the charter language dealing with the ouster of council members was "vague at best," and that expulsion was an "extraordinary penalty."
Expelling any member whom the rest of the council disliked, Taylor said, would be setting "in my opinion, a very dangerous precedent." Taylor asked for the council to wait while she researched the issue and sought an opinion from Bob Butterworth, the attorney general of Florida.
But the council proceeded to vote 4-1 to oust Wilson, with Mayor Roger Naused casting the only vote to keep him.
The mayor's attempt _ a few minutes before the vote _ to remove Salzillo's motion from the agenda drew a negative reaction from both the council and the audience. Naused said he wanted the council to "calm down."
Wilson had introduced his own motion to censure Salzillo, but he withdrew it a few moments before the vote against him.
The council's vote means it will notify Wilson in writing of its intent to force him to forfeit his seat. Wilson has seven days in which to request a hearing at which he can present rebutting evidence. The council then will vote on the issue again.
City Clerk Shirley Dresch said she believed there was an attempt to oust Harold Loser from the council, under the rules of the pre-1988 charter. That move, which came before voters recalled Loser from office, failed, Dresch said.
_ Editor Bill Stevens contributed to this report.