Suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi intends on showing up to Town Hall on Monday and reclaiming his office, saying he has the constitutional right do so after being acquitted of federal corruption charges.
The town’s response: If he goes into any unauthorized areas including the mayor’s office “he will be deemed a trespasser and subject to arrest.”
“The town of Miami Lakes will not tolerate a breach of the peace or disorderly conduct by Mr. Pizzi or anyone else,” Miami Lakes town attorney Raul Gastesi wrote on Sunday in response to a letter by Pizzi’s attorney Ben Kuehne, sent the day before, about Pizzi’s intentions of returning to office on Monday.
Pizzi said on Sunday that he doesn't need the governor's signature to reclaim his post. He said that the moment a jury acquitted him on Thursday he once again became mayor.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“Nobody has the authority to defy the Florida constitution and block that,” he said.
Pizzi was acquitted on all seven federal corruption charges stemming from a set-up last summer by federal investigators. Investigators had posed as Chicago businessmen looking to pay off elected officials in exchange for their support of lucrative federal grants. Pizzi was eventually charged with accepting $6,750 in illegal payments.
On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott said he would not reinstate Pizzi because the town already had a new mayor. Wayne Slaton won a special election last September after Pizzi was charged and suspended by Scott.
Slaton said on Sunday that he hoped Pizzi would change is mind about showing up at town hall.
“I was elected to serve until 2016 and that is exactly what I am going to do,” he said.
Kuehne on Saturday sent a letter to Miami Lakes Town Manager Alex Rey and Town Clerk Marjorie Tejeda, saying that “there is some confusion arising from the illegal efforts of the temporary Town Mayor to attempt to exercise official power beyond the temporary term to which he was elected.”
“That is precisely why Mayor Pizzi will be continuing to utilize his mayoral office space effective on Monday, August 18, 2014, at 9 a.m.,” Kuehne wrote. “He will also need the services of an Administrative Assistant, and will require re-issuance of appropriate access credentials.”
In response, Gastesi said that “there is no confusion.”
“The Mayor of Miami Lakes is Wayne Slaton,” he wrote.
Pizzi called Gastesi’s response “insulting and ridiculous.”
“Mr. Gastesi has never practiced municipal law in his entire life,” he said. “He was appointed by Slaton because of his friendship and political loyalty and for no other reason. Instead of taking an objective position and doing research, Mr. Gastesi is acting as a personal lawyer for Mr. Slaton and leading the city down the wrong path.”
Pizzi said it is his responsibility to Miami Lakes residents for him to go back to work.
“I have no choice,” Pizzi said. “If I was to do anything else I'd be derelict in my duties.”
Though Pizzi promised on Friday to let his lawyers deal with the issue and to not show up at Town Hall on Monday, he said on Sunday that his new plan is not inconsistent with the earlier statement.
“There's not going to be a wrestling match. I'm not going to be escorted out by police for trespassing,” Pizzi said. “I'm not going to force them to throw me out of the building.”
Asked Sunday whether he still intends to file a lawsuit to fight Gov. Scott’s position, Pizzi said he has instructed his attorneys to consider all avenues.
“If the governor would have followed the constitution it would not have created an opportunity for squabbling among Miami Lakes political officials,” Pizzi said. “If people don’t respect my right to be mayor we will take action with all parties including the governor if necessary.”