Several Doral residents on Wednesday sued Mayor Luigi Boria and the city, accusing them of violating their First Amendment rights to free speech.
Attorney Jay M. Levy, representing three named plaintiffs, said he filed suit against the city on Wednesday afternoon.
The residents allege that the Doral city council, and Boria specifically, have repeatedly placed restrictions on their speech, and, in some cases, denied citizens their right to speak at public hearings.
The plaintiffs say the council repeatedly failed to give the public ample notice for meetings and has often eliminated public comments from meeting agendas entirely — in violation of the city’s codes and charter.
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“I think there’s a lack of representation for the residents, and a lack of transparency from the city,” plaintiff Claudia Mariaca said. “We have self-serving individuals on the council that are more concerned with re-election and their own personal agendas than the problems the city is facing right now.”
Last month, Vice Mayor Sandra Ruiz threatened to have Mariaca escorted out of a special council meeting by the sergeant-at-arms after Mariaca and another plaintiff in the suit, Norberto Spangaro, voiced concern over the legality of the meeting.
The meeting was called with less than 24-hour notice and included items that were not “emergencies” per the city’s charter — including an item that passed on first reading at Wednesday’s regular council meeting, that would have the city pay for public officials’ legal defense in “ethical matters.”
“You cannot do things your own way. There is a charter and a protocol that has to be followed,” said Felipe E. Madrigal, another plaintiff. “It can’t be done strictly at their own convenience.”
The lawsuit also contends that: “City of Doral violated Florida State Statutes on September 12, 2014 when it called for an emergency meeting of the Council to appropriate $2.5 Million Dollars of tax payers funds for the Miss Universe Pageant without allowing for any comments whatsoever from the public.”
Wednesday night, the city issued a terse statement about the lawsuit: “At this time, the City of Doral has not been served any summons or complaint associated with such a [matter]. The City will not comment on threatened lawsuits.”