The North Miami Beach City Commission appointed former vice mayor Beth Spiegel as the new mayor Tuesday night in the latest effort to bring things back to normal after a slew of vacancies left the commission unable to vote on city business last month.
"This means that we continue to move the city forward," said Nicole Gomez, chief of staff for the North Miami Beach government. The mayor did not respond to request for an interview.
Spiegel had served as interim mayor since the former mayor, George Vallejo, abruptly quit in early April after pleading guilty to violating state campaign finance laws.
Vallejo followed two other commissioners out the door: Marlen Martell, who left in March to take over as North Bay Village city manager, and Frantz Pierre, who was removed in January due to health-related absenteeism. The exodus created a Catch-22 for the commission, which was one person short of quorum, preventing any city business from being voted on — including the appointment of a new commissioner.
A tentative quorum was regained on May 1, after Judge Dennis J. Murphy ruled Pierre could return to his seat and attend to city business while his lawsuit over wrongful removal is pending. According to Pierre's lawyer, Benedict Kuehne, the judge agreed that Pierre's suit would likely overturn his January removal. Pierre's return allowed the commission to appoint Fortuna Smukler in an emergency session last week to fill Martell's former seat.
Smukler's appointment seemed to put a definitive end to the city's quorum issues, even as some speculate Pierre's reinstatement might be short lived. The commissioner is the subject of a public corruption investigation by the state attorney's office. Tuesday, the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust announced it would hold a public hearing next week to discuss a complaint accusing Pierre of abusing his position as commissioner when he was cited for property code violations in 2015 .
Spiegel was appointed on a five-to-one vote Tuesday and will hold the seat until the November election. The commission will now seek a replacement for vice mayor.