A judge has overturned the results of two Miami elections, ruling that the victors weren’t qualified to hold the positions to which they were elected in November.
As a result of Judge Lisa Walsh’s order, Peter Ehrlich and Grant Stern have been barred from taking seats 4 and 5 on the board of supervisors of the Midtown Miami Community Development District, a special taxing agency created under state law to finance and oversee public areas in the popular shopping complex. Ehrlich won his race against Angelo Masarin by 86 votes; Stern beat John Sherry by 53.
But neither man lived in the district at the time they qualified to make the November ballot, during the election, nor on the day they were to be sworn in. Retail firm and district member DDR Miami Avenue, LLC noted as much in a December lawsuit that kept the two men from assuming their posts on the district’s governing board.
Stern, whose candidacy was at least in part about working with the board to challenge a controversial Midtown Walmart superstore planned within the district, argued in court that DDR — which sold Walmart its property — filed its suit in order to intimidate him. But on Jan. 31, Walsh granted the retailer a permanent injunction. She said that DDR would be damaged should Stern and Ehrlich be allowed to take office given their lack of residency, and prohibited the board from swearing in the two men in the future.
“The legislature has made a rational decision to limit membership on the board to people who live in the district which the board serves,” Walsh wrote. “This ensures that the people making decisions are the ones who will be affected by those decisions.”
Beyond blocking the two victors from taking office, Walsh’s order did not include direction on how the district’s board should proceed. Attempts to reach district director Craig Wrathell at his office and by email Tuesday afternoon were unsuccessful.