Charles Vallas, the city councilman whose seat was declared vacant because of his unexcused absence from a meeting, has returned home from a 3 1/2-month vacation charging that he was ousted for political reasons.
In a five-page letter that Vallas said he will mail to the city's 873 residents, he charges that City Manager Dolly Vollaire engineered his ouster because he opposed her requests for a 15% salary increase and a city car. Vollaire got the 15% raise, to $35,000 a year, on a 4-1 vote of the council, with Vallas dissenting. She did not get the car. Vollaire declined to comment on Vallas' charges.
Vallas, 67, who had represented District 2 since 1981, last attended a council meeting Oct. 16. He returned to the city from vacation Feb. 7, he said. Under state law, if a council member is absent without permission from all regular city council meetings within a 60-day period after the last regular meeting attended, the office becomes vacant.
Vallas actually missed only one regular meeting of the council before his ouster, because the council's regular meetings are monthly and the December meeting was canceled.
Council members who notify City Hall that they will be absent are excused. City officials have said Vallas did not notify them he would be absent from the November meeting. In his letter, Vallas says he told Vollaire he would probably not be at the November meeting and that later his son informed her that Vallas would be absent. Vallas said, "Policy (on losing a seat) had always been--and I understood (it) to mean--missing a minimum of two regular meetings."
State law called for Vallas' seat to become vacant Dec. 15. A special meeting was held Jan. 11 to declare the seat vacant and appoint Robert B. Allen. The council's regularly scheduled meeting was Jan. 15.
After Vallas' seat became vacant, the council had 30 days to name a successor and did so three days before state law would have compelled the city to set a special election to fill the seat.
At the special meeting in January Councilman John Richards said, "We greatly regret that Councilman Vallas' seat has become vacant because he has not communicated with us nor have we been able to communicate with him. City staff has tried diligently to do so."
Vallas said, "The city manager did not want to contact me. All she had to do was ask my son for my telephone number in Florida or tell my son to call me and have me call her if she really wanted to get in touch with me."
Vallas said that since his election to a new term in April, he has often been a council minority of one.