River Cities

Miami Springs election hearing canceled after Miami-Dade circuit judge recuses herself

Fernando ‘Fred’ Suco, left, and incumbent Mayor Zavier Garcia pose for a photo before the April 7 election.
Fernando ‘Fred’ Suco, left, and incumbent Mayor Zavier Garcia pose for a photo before the April 7 election. Miami Herald File

A Thursday hearing challenging the Miami Springs election process has been canceled — the judge in the case recused herself for knowing both parties in the mayoral lawsuit.

Ten days after Woody’s Tavern owner, Fernando “Fred” Suco, lost his mayoral bid to incumbent Zavier Garcia in the April 7 election, he sued Miami Springs to unseat the winner.

“Based on the fact that both plaintiff Fernando Suco and Mayor Zavier Garcia are personally known to the court, the court enters this sua sponte order of recusal on the above referenced case,” shows an undated court order signed by Circuit Court Judge Monica Gordo obtained Tuesday night by the Herald.

Suco seeks “an order removing defendant Garcia from the mayor position,” states the lawsuit filed April 17. 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.

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.”

“For some unknown reason, [Suco] did not file a statutory action to contest the results of an election as required by Florida statute 102.168,” shows a motion to dismiss filed May 1 on behalf of Miami Springs.

“Furthermore, [Suco] has failed to include an indispensable party to their action by failing to name the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections, Penelope Townsley, who both certified the petitions that mayor Garcia qualified and certified the results of the election,” the motion states.

“Suco has 21 days in order to dismiss his baseless complaint or we will file for attorney’s fees once we prevail in the litigation,” said attorney Juan-Carlos “J.C.” Planas, who was hired by council last month to represent the city in the suit for $300 per hour.

Suco’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As of Wednesday, no judge has been assigned to the case and a hearing date has not been set, according to the Clerk of Courts database.

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