Miami-Dade County

Political committee files appeal after judge tosses effort to recall Sweetwater mayor

Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez
Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez Miami Herald File

A political committee trying to oust the mayor of Sweetwater has filed an appeal challenging a lower court decision that invalidated a recall petition drive.

On Tuesday, Providing Effective Government for All Residents announced that it has challenged Judge Rodney Smith’s final judgment in its case versus Mayor Orlando Lopez, who serves as the top administrator of the west Dade suburb just north of FIU’s main campus. The committee sought to recall Lopez on the grounds that his absence from commission meetings constituted a neglect of duty.

Lopez challenged the effort in court, and Smith ruled that the committee’s recall drive, pushed through a petition drive, was based on a flawed argument that the city’s charter required Lopez to attend meetings.

In their appeal, attorneys Ben Kuehne and Juan-Carlos Planas argued that Smith was wrong and said his ruling denied thousands of Sweetwater residents their “constitutional and statutory rights.” They asked the Third District Court of Appeal to overturn Smith’s ruling and allow the recall effort to proceed to a second phase in which additional petitions must be secured in order to force a recall election.