Miami Beach

Miami Beach

Miami Beach campaigns face legal challenges

 

cveiga@MiamiHerald.com

Election complaints are stacking up in the Miami Beach elections for mayor and commissioner.

Miami Beach Commission Group I candidate Sherry Kaplan Roberts faces an elections complaint over lingering accusations that she doesn’t actually live in Miami Beach.

Also, a lawsuit that was filed against a political group involved in the mayoral race was recently dismissed.

Roberts

Roberts has been under attack in blog posts and mailers that claim she only winters in Miami, and spends the rest of her time in Ohio. Miami Beach’s laws require elected officials to live in the city for a year before qualifying for office.

The candidate has provided the Miami Herald with leases and light bills, which she says are proof of her residency. She said she couldn’t comment on the complaint because it is under investigation.

Filed in mid-October with the Florida Elections Commission, according to a copy sent to the Miami Herald and posted online, the complaint claims that Roberts has taken tax exemptions on her Ohio property that only apply to full-time residents. She has also received homestead exemptions on a Miami Beach property.

The complaint was filed by John P. Morgan, who runs the blog CityDebate.Wordpress.com. He said he is not being paid to run the blog.

“I don’t work for any candidate in any way, shape or form,” he said.

Lawsuit

An election lawsuit was dismissed Friday after a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge decided that the resident who filed it didn’t have legal standing to sue.

Joseph S. Geller, who represented several of the parties in the suit, said the suit tried to “gain political advantage ... to try to silence your opponent from speaking, from communicating with the voters.”

“Nobody can silence political speech,” he said.

The lawsuit revolved around a Nevada corporation that could have donated thousands of dollars to a Florida electioneering communication organization, or ECO, involved in the Miami Beach election. However, there is a federal political action committee of the same name as the Nevada corporation, The Women’s Leadership Conference, that also could have donated the money.

An ECO is a group that raises money and sends out fliers, phone calls or other “communications” about election issues. Political action committees, also called PACs, are similar to electioneering committees.

Filed by a resident named Marie Elena Rodriguez, the lawsuit claims that both the Nevada and the federal entity share a bank account. The organizations “purposely attempted to illegally conceal the identities of contributors” to the Florida ECO, according to the suit.

The ECO, the PAC and the Nevada corporation all share Randall Hilliard as a member or agent. Hilliard, who was also named in the suit, has previously served as Commissioner Michael Góngora’s campaign consultant. Góngora, who is running for mayor, says he is not working with Hilliard this year.

Meanwhile, the Women’s Leadership Conference listed Góngora’s mother a registered agent, until recently.

Geller represented Women’s Leadership, the ECO and Hilliard.

J.C. Planas, an election lawyer who is working with the campaign of Miami Beach mayoral candidate Philip Levine, represented Rodriguez in the suit. Levine has been the subject of attack ads paid for by the Florida ECO.

Entertainer Steve Berke is also running for mayor. Early voting is already underway. The general election is Nov. 5.

Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.

Read more Miami Beach stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK