An ousted North Miami Beach commissioner can return to the dais to vote on legislation and other matters while a lawsuit challenging his removal from office is pending in state court, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Frantz Pierre, who was removed from office in January over health-related absenteeism, will be temporarily allowed to return to his position on the city commission, according to a ruling by Judge Dennis J. Murphy. Attempts to reach Pierre were unsuccessful, but his lawyers and an attorney for the city confirmed the ruling.
The victory could be short-lived: Pierre is the subject of an ongoing public corruption investigation by the state attorney's office.
But the decision has significant consequences for the city of 44,000 and its municipal government, which for the last three weeks has been unable to conduct legislative business due to a shortage of elected officials. With ex-Mayor George Vallejo having resigned as a part of a misdemeanor plea deal and Commissioner Marlen Martell resigning to work as the top administrator in North Bay Village, Pierre's ouster left the city unable to cobble together the five commissioners needed to vote on legislation, development, spending and other special matters.
"I stand ready to assist Mayor Beth Spiegel as we function as a team with the other commissioners to continue our progress," Pierre said in a statement issued by attorney Benedict Kuehne.
Back on the dais, Pierre should be able to help the city appoint new commissioners and get back to business as usual. According to Kuehne, Judge Murphy agreed that Pierre is likely to overturn his removal, which came after an attorney hired by the city found his participation in meetings by telephone ran afoul of a charter requirement that commissioners attend meetings in person on a semi-regular basis.
Kuehne expects a final determination in the case will be made this summer.