January 13, 2014

Hialeah city attorney: Councilman can seek fourth term

City Attorney William Grodnick said a partial term does not count against the three-term limit.

José Caragol, a popular veteran councilman in Hialeah, will be able to run for reelection despite criticism from Eddy González, a state representative who wants to replace him, according to a legal opinion from the city attorney.

The document was issued in early December by City Attorney William Grodnick, a couple of weeks before the political dispute about Caragol’s intention to run for reelection in 2015 was known.

According to González, Caragol could not run for a fourth term. Hialeah’s city charter says that council members can only run for three consecutive terms.

However, Grodnick’s report describes a term as an electoral period of four years and not the time a council member holds the post to complete a term by someone else.

“The terms are defined by the Hialeah charter as four years or until a successor is duly qualified to assume the position,” Grodnick wrote.

In the case of Caragol, he was elected in a special election held in 2005 to complete the two years left in the term of then-councilman Vanessa Bravo. Later in 2007, Caragol was reelected for a period of four years. And in 2011 he defeated his challenger, former mayor Julio Martínez, for four more years.

Current Mayor Carlos Hernández and Grodnick declined to comment on the issue. El Nuevo Herald could not reach González.

However, late in December, González said that while he was not “seeking a war,” there was a possibility of appealing in court a Hialeah decision to give a “green light” to Caragol’s run for reelection.

González, who is in his eighth year as state representative in Tallahassee, has told El Nuevo Herald that Caragol’s case in similar to that of county commissioner Esteban Bovo when he was a Hialeah councilman.

In 1999, Bovo won the special election to complete a period of two years, for the seat previously held by councilwoman Marie Rovira, who had been indicted for receiving a salary of nearly $40,000 for a job in the Port of Miami that didn’t exist. She was convicted and sentenced to one year of probation.

Later Bovo won the election in 2001 for a period of four years. And in 2005 was reelected for four more years. Bovo said that at that time he verbally consulted Grodnick on the issue and the city attorney responded that he had already had three elections and could not run for another one.

In 2008, Bovo resigned to run for state representative and Katharine Cue was appointed to complete his term.

González registered his candidacy for Caragol’s seat in January 2013, and since then has raised $19,250 in campaign funds, according to the latest campaign report submitted to the Hialeah city clerk in early December.

Fundraising events for González have been held in places far from Hialeah, including Boynton Beach.

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