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April 24, 2013

Doral recall effort appears to fizzle

Elections officials say they have not received the number of signatures required for a recall election.

The effort to oust a Doral councilwoman has stalled after the county elections department said it did not receive enough signatures to merit a recall election.

Vanessa Brito, president of the political action committee Miami Voice, says she submitted 1,936 signatures last week to petition the recall of Doral Councilwoman Bettina Rodriguez-Aguilera. The county elections department says it received only 1,038 signatures. About 1,700 signatures were required to force an election.

Brito brought a box of petitions to Barbara Herrera, Doral’s city clerk, last Tuesday. In an emailed statement, Herrera said she placed the box in the clerk’s office in front of a glass door while she and Doral city attorney Joe Jiménez waited for a police escort to take the signatures to the elections department, which is less than two miles from City Hall.

“This was done purposefully so that it can remain in plain view of the people that were outside in the lobby,” she wrote.

Brito and other representatives from Miami Voice followed and met the city officials at the elections department.

The next day, the department told city officials they had received only about 1,000 signatures, which are now being verified.

Jiménez said Brito told him she had scanned all of the petitions and would present them to him the next day. As of Wednesday, the city has not received the copies.

“She never responded or showed up,” he said.

The recall campaign has raised issues about Rodriguez-Aguilera, including her running for office after living less than the necessary two years in Doral and a lawsuit she has against the city on the alleging gender discrimination.

A judge ruled in Rodriguez-Aguilera’s favor in the case regarding her residence in Doral. The lawsuit, in which she claims that Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz and former and former councilman Pete Cabrera harassed her, is pending.

Brito, who told El Nuevo Herald last week that she wants to sue Herrera over the disappearance of hundreds of signatures, did not return calls or emails seeking comment this week.

Herrera wrote in her email that she was surprised to hear of what she called “malicious, frivolous, and frankly, ridiculous accusations.”

“What does she think I did with the 1,000 or so petitions?” she wrote. “Throw them out the window as we were driving down 87th Avenue toward the Elections Department?”

The controversy comes as the Doral City Council is considering changing its local recall election law.

The council will consider an ordinance during a special meeting, scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday at the Doral Government Center, which will limit the number of times elected officials can face recall.

A public hearing will be held during the meeting, where the council will consider the measure for final approval. The ordinance, which prevents a recall petition from being certified within a year after the failure of a previous recall of the same official, was introduced during the last council meeting by City Manager Joe Carollo and approved on first reading.

Jiménez said the state law, which governs municipal elections, does not currently place a limit on the number of times an elected official can have a recall brought against them.

“An office holder can live under the threat of perpetual recall,” he said.

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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