Miami Lakes Town Clerk Marjorie Tejeda-Castillo verbally resigned from her position Monday after allegedly being threatened with a lawsuit by Mayor Michael Pizzi, if legislation regarding two new business items on the town’s July agenda is implemented.
The incident allegedly took place during a meeting Monday among Pizzi, Tejeda-Castillo and Town Manager Alex Rey.
“He threatened to personally sue the town clerk and myself if we proceed to implement any legislation that resulted from the implementation of the above mentioned items,” Rey wrote in an email to town officials that was obtained by the Miami Herald. “As a result of this action, the town clerk has verbally submitted her resignation and is currently not in office.”
Tejeda-Castillo has been working with the town since 2008. She earns $72,000 annually as town clerk.
Rey’s email has the subject line “Agenda Items 13 B and 13 C.”
Item 13B was sponsored by Councilman Tony Lama and co-sponsored by Councilman Nelson Rodriguez. It called for the town’s letterhead and town resources not to be used for non-town sponsored events.
“We as elected officials are free to host our own events, but if official communication is to come from the town, it must be an approved and budgeted event [if monies are required] by the council, the manager, or a town committee,” the item proposes. “For events not sponsored by the town, town resources, including email lists amassed by the town for resident communication, cannot be used.”
Item 13 C was proposed by Rodriguez and calls for the clerk to be the only person who can call up residents wishing to speak at town meetings.
“The town clerk shall control the speaker’s cards and will call up the speakers in the order that they were received,” the item says. “The mayor will then recognize the speaker. Thus, the town clerk will be the only person to receive and control the speaker cards during the meeting.”
Lama, who is currently in the United Kingdom on a business trip, said in a phone interview that the intent behind his item was to prevent town resources from being use for personal, political and campaign purposes.
In an interview with the Miami Herald, Pizzi said Monday he considers this all a “misunderstanding.” He said he considers Tejeda-Castillo to be a friend, as well as a valued employee.
“This is absolutely not true and I made no such statements. And I have no such intentions,” Pizzi said in an email that is addressed to Rey. “In fact, the Town Clerk has been a personal friend of mine who I have admired greatly for over a decade.
“… What I told you and not Marjorie, was that I thought that we were all obligated to follow the Town Charter and State law that I was concerned about any attempt to request that Town Staff do anything that was ever illegal or in violation of any laws of our Charter.”
Pizzi went on to write that it’s his hope that he and the town can work together and “never again resort to litigation.”
“I hope that this is not another effort to create animosity toward me,” Pizzi wrote. “It is time to work for the people and put these other issues aside.”
In response to Pizzi’s email, Tejeda-Castillo sent one of her own: “I was present in the meeting and the Town Managers [sic] recollection of the meeting is true and correct.”
As for the agenda items, Pizzi said he believes they were placed on the agenda to prevent him to carry out his duties. He said, for example, if he wanted to give away turkeys during the holidays — and paid for it with his own funds — then he would not be able to promote this event using the town’s email.
Pizzi was arrested in August 2013 on federal bribery charges, and suspended from his mayoral post by Gov. Rick Scott. He ultimately was found not guilty of the charges and was reinstated in April to finish his second four-year term as mayor.
Meanwhile, Tejeda-Castillo said in a text message late Monday afternoon that she may return.
“Due to the outpouring support from my colleagues, town manager and council members I am reconsidering my resignation,” she wrote.
The Miami Lakes council meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Town Hall, 6601 Main St.