North Miami planning election to replace mayor

05/21/2014 5:57 PM

05/21/2014 8:38 PM

North Miami city leaders said Wednesday that there would be no change in the day-to-day operations of their city after Mayor Lucie Tondreau was charged with mortgage fraud and suspended by Gov. Rick Scott.

The remaining City Council and staff said they were prepared to continue “business as usual” and to prepare for a special election to replace Tondreau.

Under North Miami’s system of government, the mayor is chairwoman of the City Council but not the chief executive of City Hall; instead the council hires a professional city manager to oversee day-to-day operations.

The city’s charter states that if an elected official is removed from office, and the official has served less than half their term, a special election must take place within 60 days to replace them. Tondreau was elected mayor last June for a two-year term.

“The city clerk is in contact with the Miami-Dade Department of Elections to set an exact date for this election,” said Acting Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime.

Tondreau turned herself in to the regional FBI office Tuesday morning, a day after FBI agents came to her home to arrest her, while she was in Las Vegas on city business. She was released on a $50,000 bond and declared her innocence after she left the courthouse.

The suspended mayor is facing conspiracy and wire fraud charges and is set to be arraigned June 30.

She is accused of participating in a scheme with three other defendants to set up “straw” borrowers to buy 20 South Florida homes while she and her collaborators defrauded $8 million from mortgage lenders.

Bien-Aime said that he was “shocked” and “saddened” by Tondreau’s indictment, but did not address any other details of the case.

“It’s not up to me or to any citizen to conclude whether or not someone is innocent or should be convicted of any crime,” Bien-Aime said. “Please, let the system prevail.”

Councilman Scott Galvin said he believes that Bien-Aime, who has only served on the council for about a year, will be ready to handle the task ahead of him.

“The good news is we’ve all worked together for at least a year so we sort of know each other and have a feel for where it’s going to go,” Galvin said. “The basic parameters of how the game is played haven’t changed.”

Galvin and Bien-Aime said they are not planning to run for mayor in the special election, but Councilwoman Marie Steril said Wednesday she would consider it.

“Mainly, if I decided to run for mayor, my goal would be to create stability in the city,” Steril said.

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