Miami Lakes

Appeals court judges hear arguments in Miami Lakes mayor case

Michael Pizzi, center, stands with his attorneys as Benedict P. Kuehne speaks with media outside the State's Third District Court of Appeal in West Miami-Dade on Wednesday, April 22, 2015.
Michael Pizzi, center, stands with his attorneys as Benedict P. Kuehne speaks with media outside the State's Third District Court of Appeal in West Miami-Dade on Wednesday, April 22, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The legal battle for the Miami Lakes mayoral seat continued Wednesday morning as attorneys representing Michael Pizzi, Wayne Slaton and the town made oral arguments before the Third District Court of Appeal.

The decision made by the judges will finally determine who will serve as the town’s mayor until November 2016.

Pizzi has been fighting to return to the mayoral seat since being acquitted of federal bribery charges in August 2014.

The hearing was the result of an appeal filed by lawyers representing the town and Slaton regarding Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Gisela Cardonne Ely’s March 31 decision to allow Pizzi to return as the town’s mayor, following a 30-day stay. That stay is set to expire on April 30.

Prior to the hearing attorneys for Slaton and the town filed a joint motion requesting that the judges extend the stay until their ruling, but the judges did not address that motion.

Meanwhile, in court, attorneys presented their arguments to the judges on Wednesday.

Legal teams for both sides of the matter echoed the arguments they’ve been making since the legal battle began, claiming that the Town Charter, State Law, case law and other legal documents support their respective claims as to who should serve as the town’s mayor.

The judges did not make a ruling on Wednesday, although both sides are remaining positive, and believe that the judge will rule in their favor.

“We are very confident. Our briefs, I think, are well written, I think the case law is on our favor,” said Town Attorney Raul Gastesi. “We’re hoping the court gives us a decision rather quickly.”

Benedict Kuehne, an attorney on Pizzi’s legal team, believes the outcome will be in their favor.

“We remain confident that the court understands the legal issues and will issue an order appropriately affirming Judge Cardonne Ely’s order that Mayor Pizzi is the rightful mayor, entitled to resume his duties of office,” Kuehne said.

Another issue up in the air is how much the reinstatement case will cost Miami Lakes taxpayers.

Last week, the town council approved spending an additional $111,051.19 in town funds to pay the Akerman law firm to represent Slaton. Miami Lakes’ spent $211,051.19, as of March 18, in legal fees to Akerman, an amount that exceeded the $200,000 the town approved to pay the law firm last month.

Akerman has agreed to represent Slaton during the appeal for an amount not to exceed $100,000.

Pizzi has asked the town to cover his legal fees in this case, but hasn’t said how much his legal fees are.

  Comments