River Cities

Defeated Miami Springs candidate asks judge to unseat mayor

Challenger Fernando ‘Fred’ Suco, left, and incumbent Miami Springs Mayor Zavier Garcia pose before the election.
Challenger Fernando ‘Fred’ Suco, left, and incumbent Miami Springs Mayor Zavier Garcia pose before the election. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Just 10 days after Fernando “Fred” Suco lost his mayoral bid to incumbent Zavier Garcia in the April 7 election, he sued Miami Springs to unseat the winner.

Suco, owner of Woodys West End Tavern, is challenging the city’s election process and seeks “an order removing defendant Garcia from the mayor position,” states the lawsuit filed April 17.

Along with the city, the suit lists two additional defendants: Garcia “in his capacity as the mayor” and Erika Gonzalez-Santamaria “as the city clerk and supervisor of elections of the city.”

Garcia filed his “campaign treasury form” on Jan. 12, 2015, according to the lawsuit. Two days later, he “submitted 103 petition signatures to the city clerk’s office.”

“Signatures may not be obtained until the candidate has filed the appointment of campaign treasurer and designation of campaign depository pursuant to statute 106.021,” the lawsuit shows. According to the lawsuit, Garcia had not named a treasurer or bank on his campaign treasury form.

Before he sued, Suco filed a complaint with the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission that went nowhere, alleging that Garcia violated state election law. The commission’s report cited a “conflict” between state law and the city charter and concluded that a candidate “wishing to challenge the process in question” could do so with a lawsuit.

“Fernando Suco was the only qualified candidate according to state law and, therefore, should be the mayor of Miami Springs,” said attorney John Cunill, of Adorno-Cunill & Damas. “He is seeking to bring transparency to the City Hall in Miami Springs, and the first step is by demanding that the election process be carried out in accordance with state law.”

Miami Springs has a population of about 14,000. Of the city’s 8,385 registered voters, 2,902 (or 34.61 percent) cast ballots, according to election officials.

Cunill added that prior to the election, Gonzalez-Santamaria was made “aware of an issue relating to the qualifying signatures obtained by candidate Zavier Garcia.”

A case hearing has been set for 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 7, at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse, 73 W. Flagler St. before Circuit Court Judge Monica Gordo.

“I decline comment pending council appointment of an attorney,” Miami Springs City Manager Ron Gorland said.

City Attorney Jan Seiden, who is not expected to represent the city, also declined comment, citing “standard policy.”

The public is invited to speak during open forum at the April 27 City Council meeting about the pending lawsuit. The council is expected to select an attorney to represent the defendants during the meeting.

If you go

▪ What: Election lawsuit discussion at City Council meeting.

▪ Where: City Hall, 201 Westward Dr.

▪ When: 7 p.m. Monday, April 27.