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Brian Heady sues Vero, alleging his rights have been violated


Longtime Vero Beach political gadfly Brian Heady on June 6 filed suit against the City of Vero Beach and the City Council for alleged secret dealings and attempts to squelch public input into major decisions related to the sale of Vero electric.

Heady, a perennial candidate for office who was elected to one term on the City Council in 2009, is serving in a pro se capacity in the civil case, which falls under the broad category of “negligence,” placing it under the jurisdiction of Judge Paul Kanarek.

The city was served the initial complaint on June 13. On Thursday, City Attorney Wayne Coment declined to comment: “No comment at this point on the merits of the complaint or lack thereof.”

City Manager Jim O’Connor said on Friday, “I really have nothing to say about the latest Brian Heady lawsuit – it speaks for itself.”

The complaint reads like an excerpt from “Liars, Cheats, and Thieves,” the book Heady wrote about events surrounding earlier efforts to sell Vero electric. The suit includes three counts – Denial of Rights, Unjust Enrichment, and Public Ridicule and Embarrassment – the last of which relates to Heady being removed from the podium or council chambers by uniformed police officers at the direction of the mayor or council.

Heady lists 14 items in his “Statement of Facts,” including claims that the “City Council violates my rights at almost every city council meeting;” that, “In more than one example, the act of shutting me up was to hide from public view frauds on the public;” and that, “I have worked as much as the lawyers hired in the electric issue and am knowledgeable in the issue.”

Regarding what Heady terms as “unjust enrichment,” he winds that argument around his opposition to the sale of Vero’s electric utility. “Current Mayor Harry Howle says he doesn’t care if the city gets nothing for the electric utility, he just wants the city out of business ... plaintiff does care, and I don’t want the city out of business and I have a right to voice my opinion in the same as other citizens in the community.”

In fairness to Howle, his public statements expressed a widely held desire to get Vero out of the “electric utility” business, not out of business totally.

Heady has sued the city before, most recently in May 2010 during his term on the City Council. That time, Heady alleged in a federal court complaint that Vero officials failed to act transparently in negotiating a 2007 contract with Orlando Utilities Commission by refusing public access to important strategy sessions and to the actual contract documents, which were kept under lock and key, away from public scrutiny, at the home of consultant Sue Hersey in a Boston suburb for more than two years.

In that suit Heady also claimed he was not permitted to publicly vet all the issues he wanted to as a member of the public or council person.

In earlier lawsuits against the city and the Indian River County School Board, Heady alleged wrongdoing by elected officials and top government employees along with concerted efforts to shut down or limit public comment to conceal public business and allow the alleged wrongdoing to go unchecked.

All the lawsuits were eventually dismissed.

Heady has been criticized for his bizarre tirades from the public podium and on the campaign trail. But he has been dogged and persistent in pushing his viewpoint, despite repeated setbacks and failure of his complaints to gain traction in the courts.