North Miami Beach commissioner removed from office by the city due to health-related absenteeism has blocked his former colleagues from naming his replacement.
Calling it a “successful challenge to the efforts of entrenched political opponents,” Frantz Pierre obtained a temporary injunction Thursday from Judge Dennis Murphy stopping the North Miami Beach City Commission from choosing a successor in a meeting scheduled later that night.
The commission is treating Pierre’s seat as if it were vacant because he had not attended a meeting in person in more than four months. An attorney’s opinion released last month ruled that he gave up his office after phoning in to a Jan. 16 meeting because the city’s charter requires him to attend at least one meeting in person every four months.
Pierre, who was elected to a four-year term in 2016, is suing to invalidate that opinion on the grounds that he participated in some meetings by telephone, which he says fits the criteria for attendance under the charter. His attorneys say he relied on the advice of City Attorney Jose Smith; they charge that Smith “secretly” obtained the opinion from a hired attorney last month to remove Pierre.
“I have prevented the City from engaging in an illegal act,” Pierre said in a statement distributed by his attorneys, Benedict Kuehne and Michael T. Davis. “I will continue to serve my community as its elected Commissioner, and will work to serve the interests of the public through the expiration of my term in November 2018. The will of the people must prevail.”
Pierre argues that he continues to hold his seat, and that it is not vacant. A hearing in the case will likely be held next week.