River Cities

They’re married. They are running for office. Will they be able to keep a secret?

Married couple Martin Marquez and Kathie Marquez are out to make history in Miami Springs by becoming the first spouses to take council seats at the same time.
Married couple Martin Marquez and Kathie Marquez are out to make history in Miami Springs by becoming the first spouses to take council seats at the same time. For the Miami Herald

Married couple Martin Marquez and Kathie Marquez — who are each running for seats on the Miami Springs city council — have assured the Miami-Dade ethics commission that if both are elected they’d have no problem upholding Florida’s strict Sunshine Law.

“We have been married for 37 years and most of the time can communicate without speaking as we are soul mates,” the couple wrote to Joseph Centorino, the ethics commission’s executive director and general counsel.

“We are not your ordinary couple as we are very disciplined in everything that we do and do not have the distraction of children complicating our life or daily routines,” the Marquezes continued. “We do not maintain any joint accounts and never have or will so that would not pose a problem. Avoiding prohibited communications would not be a problem as we both fully understand the laws and implications thereof.”

If both are elected, the Marquezes would likely be the first married couple to serve simultaneously on a Florida city council or commission.

In 1989, the wife of an incumbent councilman in the Palm Beach County town of Lake Clarke Shores briefly flirted with the idea of running and serving with her husband. Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth issued an opinion at the time that Florida’s anti-nepotism law “does not prohibit a husband and wife from simultaneously serving on the same town council.”

On Thursday, the Marquezes sought an “official determination” via email from the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust to double-check whether there were any county or state laws that might preclude them from running or serving together on the city council.

Centorino respond a day later:

“It is my opinion that there is no legal prohibition against you or your wife occupying seats on the City of Miami Springs City Council, I must counsel and advise you that such an arrangement is likely to damage the public trust, and is, therefore, highly discouraged,” he wrote, warning the Marquezes that if both are elected, it would likely “create a questionable appearance that would lead some observers to believe that violations of the Sunshine Law were occurring.”

Added Centorino: “Spouses living together and sharing multiple joint activities and responsibilities attendant to the maintenance of a household must, perforce, engage in numerous private conversations out of public view. It would not be unreasonable for citizens of Miami Springs to suspect that during such conversations some references to City business would inevitably become the subject of some conversations, even if only inadvertently.”

The Marquezes responded to Centorino, citing differences between “perception and reality.”

“If elected, we would adhere to all of those regulations previously mentioned,” the Marquezes wrote. “Even if it means a temporary separation of living quarters as needed and attending meetings in separate vehicles.”

On April 4, Miami Springs residents will cast ballots at the city’s golf course for a mayor (who sits on the council and votes) and four council members:

▪ Mayor Zavier Garcia is not seeking re-election. Running to succeed him: Councilman Billy Bain; former Councilman Eric Ezla; and school official Donna Hernandez.

▪ Group I: Incumbent Bob Best, a landscaper, is running unopposed.

▪ Group II: Teacher Constantino Hernandez; Martin Marquez; Maria Mitchell.

▪ Group III: Kathie Marquez; school official Mara Zapata.

▪ Group IV: Incumbent Jaime Petralanda, a teacher, is running unopposed.

Each of the candidates has previously held or run for a council seat, except for Mitchell, Zapata and Kathie Marquez.

Miami Springs election

▪ When: Tuesday, April 4, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

▪ Polling place: Miami Springs Golf Course, 650 Curtiss Pkwy.