“I am ready to take this (lawsuit) to the Supreme Court of the State of Florida,” losing mayoral candidate Fernando “Fred” Suco said Monday night. “When someone (Zavier Garcia) does not play by the rules, sometime they have to be called out on it,”
Garcia, who defeated Suco by 341 votes in the municipal election April 7, is not the only one Suco is calling out. Suco filed a complaint last Thursday against not only Garcia but also the City of Miami Springs
and its Head of Elections,
City Clerk Erika Gonzalez-Santamaria.
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The lawsuit, appealing the results of the election, was filed in District Circuit Court on Thursday, April 16 and assigned to Judge Monica Gordo. It was filed well within the 10-day period for a candidate to appeal and contends that the signatures obtained by Garcia were not valid.
The Miami Springs Charter is silent with regards to when the required 50 signatures can be obtained by a candidate running for office and according to Suco it then reverts to state law, which says: Signatures may not be obtained until the candidate has filed the form (DS-DE-9) that appoints a campaign treasurer and designates the campaign depository (open a campaign bank account).”
If the appeal is successful, Suco could be named the mayor of Miami Springs and he did not mince his words Monday night, deadpanning, “Why would he (Garcia) get two bites out of the apple? If the appeal is successful, I did not have an opponent in the election.”
Garcia opened his campaign account Jan. 12, 2015 and turned in 103 signatures to the Miami-Dade County Elections Department for verification two days later. All but one of those signatures was dated prior to Jan. 12, 2015. Suco started his appeal at the State’s Attorney Office (SAO), which ruled no criminal violation had occurred. The SAO subsequently turned it over to the Commission on Ethics & Public Trust (COE).
Garcia still had plenty of time to go back and get the required 50 signatures, as the qualifying period for the April 7 election did not end until Feb. 20; but he chose not to take that course of action.
Several attempts were made to reach Garcia for comment, but he was out of town and did not respond to inquiries about the impending appeal to the election result.
The complaint had been passed from the SAO to the COE (ruled not in their jurisdiction) and the latter now passed it to the head of elections in Miami Springs, Gonzalez-Santamaria, for a ruling. Suco also handed a letter to Gonzalez-Santamaria on April 3, demanding a written ruling whether Garcia is still a qualified candidate for mayor.
Later that morning, the first day of early voting, Friday, April 3, 2015, Gonzalez-Santamaria sent out a mass email, including to the River Cities Gazette, that stated, “In response to recent inquiries, all candidates currently listed on the City’s General Election Ballot for April 7, 2015 are qualified and eligible to run for office in the City of Miami Springs.”
City Attorney Jan Seiden was contacted Monday afternoon for a comment on the lawsuit and, as expected, said, “City policy and my policy is that we (I) don’t comment on pending litigation.”
A court hearing on Suco’s appeal should be scheduled soon and the three defendants — Miami Springs, Zavier Garcia and Erika Gonzalez-Santamaria — will have to appear or have legal representation at the court hearing, as well as Suco.