By Jay Meisel and Dawn Krebs
PORT ST. LUCIE - The Port St. Lucie City Council voted unanimously to censure Mayor JoAnn Faiella because of controversial emails she wrote a year ago.
Even Mayor Faiella voted for her own censure, after saying she took responsibility for her actions and has learned from her mistake.
"I'm not blaming anybody," she said.
One of the emails, to community activist and Port St. Lucie resident Victoria Huggins, who lost a bid to become mayor in 2012, talked about setting up city attorney Roger Orr because of possible communications he had with former Mayor Patricia Christensen.
Ms. Huggins reported that someone at the Port St. Lucie Police Department hacked into her email account.
When contacted, Ms. Huggins didn't return calls.
The emails came to light at a July 9 council meeting, when Tony Valicenti, a Port St. Lucie resident, asked that they be read into the public record.
Mr. Valenti said he represented a Port St. Lucie Police captain who is currently suing Mayor Faiella for libel. Mr. Valenti didn't say in what capacity he represented Capt. Joseph D'Agostino.
The emails he read only stated Ms. Faiella's comments, and not the entire conversation between Ms. Huggins and Ms. Faiella. Another email referred to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation and Capt. D'Agostino.
When contacted, Mr. Valicenti did not return phone calls.
The vote to censure the mayor came after a tumultuous meeting in which against the background sounds of cheers or jeers from the audience, some speakers called for the mayor to resign and others said the move to censure her was misplaced.
City Councilwoman Michelle Berger, who called for the censure because of the emails, said after the meeting the censure serves as a "public reprimand."
The council's other option was to seek removal of Mayor Faiella, but Councilwoman Berger said she felt the censure was the appropriate response in this case.
The censure sends a message that the city council doesn't condone the mayor's actions, she said.
While the censure doesn't carry any lasting penalties against Mayor Faiella, one resident said he was working on a recall petition to remove her from office.
Councilwoman Linda Bartz said the mayor's emails caused controversy in the community and that she took responsibility for the emails.
By approving the censure, the council was able to deal with the situation and allow the city to move forward, she said.
Councilman Jack Kelly noted Mayor Faiella apologized and indicated he feels she has learned from the situation. He also, said, however, that he felt since she admitted writing the emails, he had no choice but to support the censure.
But, some residents said they feel the mayor should resign.
"Madame Mayor, you should be ashamed of yourself," said Kurt Hoyer, a resident.
He urged her to go to Indian River State College and take some English classes because of the grammar in some of her emails.
"You have totally lost your effectiveness to the taxpayers," he said. "I think you should resign, and the sooner, the better."
But Steven Carroll, another resident, called the motion for censure "a political stunt," he said.
"This motion for censure is bogus," he said.
Bert Shadowen, another resident, said Councilwoman Berger has been critical of Mayor Faiella since she took office.
"It's almost like a vendetta," he said. "I believe the agenda being advanced here doesn't do us any good."
Councilwoman Berger, who said she doesn't know where Mr. Shadowen got his information about her being constantly critical of the mayor, asked him to mention his past involvement with the city government.
He said he served on the city's redistricting committee, which adopted a plan that would have moved Councilwoman Berger out of her existing district.
But when the city council adopted a revised plan, it allowed her to remain in her district.
City manager Greg Oravec said all the acrimony is not helping the city.
"That is not helping the city to move forward," he said.
Mayor Faiella was not present at the July 9 meeting because of an out-of-town emergency. She issued a pubic apology to city residents, council and staff about the emails, saying, "politics is a tough and humbling arena, and it's certainly humbled me. I've learned and continue to learn many invaluable personal lessons."