Miami-Dade County

Sweetwater mayor defeats recall effort in court; appeal coming

Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez
Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez

An effort to recall Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez suffered a major blow Friday when a Miami-Dade judge ruled that a petition drive to force a voter referendum on his ouster was legally flawed.

According to attorneys involved with the case, Judge Rodney Smith barred the political committee Providing Effective Government for All Residents from further pursuing its drive to bounce Lopez from office.

The committee — which has links to a city commissioner — secured nearly 2,000 signatures over the last month on petitions that argued Lopez had neglected his duty by missing a handful of commission meetings and workshops. The group sought to force a decision by Sweetwater’s voters on whether to recall the mayor.

But Smith, whose order was not available Friday evening, said the committee’s claims that Lopez was violating a duty under Sweetwater’s charter to attend meetings was incorrect. The charter states that the city’s mayor, who is also its administrator, “may” attend meetings. Lopez argued he had no requirement to do so.

Lopez, who has fought for power with the city’s seven-member commission since he was elected in 2015, called the ruling a “huge victory for all City of Sweetwater employees and its residents.” But J.C. Planas, an attorney for the political committee, said an appeal is already in the works.

“If the mayor missing commission meetings isn’t neglect of duty, then what is?” he asked. “We will appeal. This is a political issue that the judge made an incorrect ruling on the law.”