North Miami moved a little closer to stabilizing its leadership Tuesday night by setting a date for a special election to replace suspended mayor Lucie Tondreau and giving their interim city manager the position permanently.
The council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance, on first reading, that sets the special election for Aug. 26. A runoff election, if necessary, would take place Nov. 4.
Early voting will begin Aug. 11, and qualifying for candidates opens June 23.
The city’s charter states that if an elected official is removed from office and has not served half of their term of service, a special election has to be held to replace them within 60 days. The county elections department wrote to the city that it would be unable to hold an election in that time frame and offered the countywide primary election as the only feasible option.
“I don’t like the the idea of waiting until November to have a runoff election, but the parameters as laid forth by the elections department makes it pretty clear,” Councilman Scott Galvin said.
Acting Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime, Councilman Galvin and Councilwoman Carol Keys have said that they do not plan to run in the special election.
Councilwoman Marie Steril said she was still “considering” a run but did not confirm anything at Tuesday’s meeting.
Former mayor Kevin Burns, who was in office from 2005 to 2009, also has not officially announced whether he will run again.
Burns sued Tondreau after losing in a runoff election last year, claiming that she had not been a North Miami resident long enough to qualify for the office. He recently filed an additional motion to expedite a judge ruling on the case after appealing in December.
“I have been encouraged by people to run; they’re assuming I’ll run,” Burns said. “People are saying they’ll help me raise the funds to run.”
Tondreau was suspended by Gov. Rick Scott following her arrest on conspiracy and wire fraud charges. She was released on a $50,000 bond on May 20 and is set to be arraigned June 30.
The suspended mayor is accused of participating in an $8 million mortgage-fraud scheme with three other defendants.
Also at the meeting, the council appointed Aleem Ghany as city manager only a few weeks after hiring a firm to assist them with the search.
Councilwoman Carol Keys had been a vocal supporter of Ghany, and many residents spoke on his behalf during the citizens’ forum portion of the meeting, calling him “knowledgeable” and “well-respected.”
“I don’t think there’s any bigger fan in this room of Mr. Aleem Ghany than me,” resident Carol Prager said.
The council voted unanimously to approve him for the job and to give him the same $175,000 salary as former manager Stephen Johnson, which got rousing applause from the audience. Ghany’s salary was $140,000 after taking over the job in April.
“The support I got from the residents, the support I got from the staff, it is really overwhelming,” Ghany said.