Court: Acquitted Miami Lakes mayor should get job back


Michael Pizzi should be restored as Miami Lakes mayor after his acquittal on federal corruption charges even though a replacement mayor was elected, a state appeals court ruled Friday.

A three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal rejected the argument from attorneys for Miami Lakes that Wayne Slaton‘s 2013 election after Pizzi’s arrest made him the rightful mayor. The judges upheld a Miami-Dade circuit judge’s previous decision that Pizzi should serve out his term that ends in November 2016.

“The town of Miami Lakes and its citizens and businesses are empowered by this positive affirmation of the rule of law and the democratic vote of the people,” Pizzi said in a statement issued by his attorney, Ben Kuehne. “I will work energetically to return the town to a statewide model of municipal efficiency and governance.”

Miami Lakes officials issued a statement saying the decision was under review.

“We will move forward from these proceedings and continue to work for the residents of our great town,” the statement said.

The court gave the town five days to file any further appeals, noting that it’s time to bring the dispute to a rapid conclusion. Pizzi echoed that in a news conference after the ruling.

“Let’s end this circus. Let’s put this past us,” he said.

Pizzi was arrested in August 2013 in an FBI sting involving questionable city grants but was acquitted a year later after a jury trial. Gov. Rick Scott initially refused to lift Pizzi’s suspension from office, but relented in December on orders from the Florida Supreme Court.

The town, however, would not restore Pizzi to the post, preferring to take the matter to court. Its main argument was that the town charter provided for a permanent new mayor to be elected because Pizzi’s suspension was longer than 60 days.

The appeals court, however, said that did not square with state law.

“His original term has not expired, and he is entitled, a matter of Florida law, to resume his official duties as mayor until the conclusion of the term for which he was originally elected,” Judge Vance Salter wrote for the court.

Republish with permission from The Associated Press.

Associated Press


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