The Miami Lakes council wants the state attorney’s office to investigate Mayor Michael Pizzi for alleged charter violations that may have led to Town Clerk Marjorie Tejeda-Castillo’s sudden resignation last week.
“This is not something to be taken lightly,” said Councilman Ceasar Mestre, who proposed the item. “This isn’t the first employee that leaves as a consequence of bullying by the same person.”
The unanimous decision by the council came during a regular meeting Tuesday night, just one day after Pizzi allegedly threatened to sue Tejeda-Castillo and Town Manager Alex Rey during a meeting on Monday if two new business items on the town’s July 21 agenda were implemented.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Rey said that he didn’t view Pizzi’s action to be a violation of the charter. “Why not? Because he wasn’t giving a directive,” Rey said. “He was saying if this happens, if you implement it, and if it goes forward, I will personally sue you.”
Said Mestre: “I think the mayor is a very smart man, and I don’t understand why he doesn’t understand that this is not a strong-mayor form of government. We have a charter, we have specific rules, and we have to abide by them.”
Section 4.2 of the town’s charter, titled Prohibitions, reads in part: “It is the express intent of this Charter that recommendations for improvement in Town government operations by individual Councilmembers are made solely to and through the Town Manager. Councilmembers may discuss with the Town Manager any matter of Town business; however, no individual Councilmember shall give orders to the Town Manager.”
The charter goes on to say that any violation by the mayor or any council member are grounds for removal from office by an action brought in the circuit court by the Miami-Dade state attorney.
“It is my opinion, based on everything I know, that that is a charter violation of numerous sections,” Town Attorney Raul Gastesi said during the meeting.
Pizzi was not present during the vote Tuesday, having left the six-hour meeting early for personal reasons.
When contacted about the call for an investigation, Pizzi said it is “designed to get a cheap headline” and part of an effort to prevent him from performing his duties as mayor.
“This is another in a never-ending series of frivolous publicity stunts designed to harass me and to get revenge on me because they lost the court case and were not able to prevent me from returning to office,” Pizzi said. “They should all be ashamed of themselves for wasting taxpayer money and calling for frivolous investigations that they know have absolutely no basis.”
Tejeda-Castillo submitted her resignation via email Tuesday afternoon, saying her final day in office will be Aug. 14.
In the email, she didn’t mention anything about Pizzi’s alleged threats; however, an email from Rey sent on Monday did make mention of the threats.
After Pizzi sent out a mass email Monday saying Rey’s account was “absolutely not true,” Tejeda-Castillo sent out her own email confirming the manager’s account.
On the dais, members of the council spoke words of praise for Tejeda-Castillo.
“If there had been some rules or laws broken, I think they need to be looked into to the fullest extent of the law,” Councilman Frank Mingo said.
Following the vote, Tejeda-Castillo made her first public comments regarding her resignation.
“I just want to thank the council and my awesome colleagues and staff and our wonderful manager for a wonderful experience,” she said.