After a week of uncertainty following the arrest of Sweetwater Mayor Manuel “Manny” Maroño, the city has a new mayor.
Vice Mayor and Commission President Jose Diaz was sworn in as mayor of Sweetwater on Monday after the city attorney revised an earlier opinion in which Diaz would have remained acting mayor following the suspension of Maroño, who was arrested by the FBI on bribery charges on Aug. 5. Diaz will serve as mayor until the end of the term in May 2015 — unless Maroño, who was suspended by Gov. Rick Scott after the arrest, is restored to office.
Diaz did not comment on Maroño’s situation. Commissioners also kept mum on Maroño during a short workshop meeting to discuss the legal consequences of the suspension.
City Attorney Ralph Ventura explained that Commission Vice President Jose Bergouignan will be sworn in as vice mayor, and the commission needs to hold a special meeting where it will nominate and appoint a commissioner to fill the spot left vacant by Bergouignan and name a vice president of the commission.
In accordance with the city’s charter, there will be no special election.
Diaz, a Spanish teacher at the all-girls Young Women’s Preparatory Academy, told reporters before the commission’s regular meeting Monday night that he will apply for a leave of absence from teaching to take on his new larger responsibility. Sweetwater has a strong-mayor form of government in which the mayor acts as administrator. There is no city manager.
“I feel a great level of responsibility,” Diaz said.
Diaz has served as commissioner in Sweetwater for 12 years. He said some of his students had sent him emails when they learned he’d be stepping into a bigger role at City Hall.
“They said, ‘Congratulations, but we’re going to miss you,’ ” he told reporters after the meeting. “I’m going to miss them.”
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