Politics

Defiance, Disarray in North Miami Beach Government as Mayor Refuses to Resign

Photo by City of North Miami Beach via Facebook
North Miami Beach Mayor Anthony DeFillipo
North Miami Beach Mayor Anthony DeFillipo is refusing to step down from office despite a veritable revolt on the municipal commission and mounting allegations that he is living outside the city he is supposed to represent.

DeFillipo has been under intense public scrutiny since December, when a resident filed a complaint against him with the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, alleging that he lives in Davie — about 15 miles away from North Miami Beach — in violation of the city charter.

This week, North Miami Beach city attorney Hans Ottinot received and concurred with a 21-page legal opinion (attached below) from a third-party lawyer who determined DeFillipo has forfeited his seat as mayor by moving outside the city limits.

The opinion, requested by Vice Mayor Michael Joseph and Commissioner McKenzie Fleurimond, cites a private investigation by a community group that found DeFillipo’s name was registered in the access box to the Davie home. The probe turned up photos and video allegedly showing that the mayor lives primarily at that residence.

"Because the publicly available facts would lead a reasonable person to objectively conclude that DeFillipo failed to comply with... the North Miami Beach Code of Ordinances' requirement to continually maintain a 'bona fide' residence in North Miami Beach, an 'automatic vacancy' of the office of mayor has occurred by operation of law," reads the opinion issued by attorney Luis Suarez.

DeFillipo and his counsel insist he isn't going anywhere.

"This is politically contrived nonsense," DeFillipo's attorney, Michael Pizzi, tells New Times. "The mayor lives in the city and is going to keep living in the city as the mayor."
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North Miami Beach Mayor Anthony DeFillipo purchased this Davie home in the summer of 2022.
Photo by Alex DeLuca
Broward County property records show DeFillipo bought the single-family Davie home for $1.2 million in July 2022. Located in the swanky Sierra Ranches community, the house's front yard was adorned with oversized candy canes and a sleigh with reindeer statues during the Christmas season. Ornamental plants and a basketball hoop also sat outside the two-story residence last month.

In late December, New Times attempted to make contact with DeFillipo at the house. The mayor could be seen through the transparent front doors but he declined to answer the doorbell.

During a January 17 city commission meeting, Ottinot declared the gathering illegal and left after refusing to recognize DeFillipo as mayor. Fleurimond and Joseph chose not to attend, questioning whether DeFillipo had authority to preside over the meeting; Commissioner Daniela Jean was absent as well.

With only three of the six city commissioners present, and thus no quorum, nearly two hours of public comment from residents ensued, during which many called out the city for being dysfunctional.

Commissioner Fleurimond tells New Times the mayor has squandered the opportunity to provide definitive evidence that he is still residing in North Miami Beach. The commissioner says he is hoping for a higher authority such as the governor's office or state attorney to step in, as city government is at a standstill.

"Mr. DeFillipo, go seek assistance from a court, and we'll be happy to hear it," Fleurimond says in a phone interview. "But in the meantime, allow us to function with the six [city officials] that are not in question, so that we can go ahead and take care of city business until such time as we receive a response from you."

DeFillipo attempted to terminate Ottinot from his post as city attorney during a December 20 city commission meeting. But because the mayor's opponents on the commission refused to participate, there were not enough members on the dais to carry out a vote on Ottinot’s firing.
According to Chapter 7 of the city code, a candidate for mayor or city commission must "be a bona fide resident of the City of North Miami Beach and express an intent to remain permanently a bona fide resident of the city during the entire term of office." The charter defines "bona fide residence" as "a permanent, fixed place of domicile within the City of North Miami Beach, to the exclusion of all other places."

"Should any elected official of the City of North Miami Beach, during his term of office, change his bona fide residence from within to without the City of North Miami Beach, his seat... shall be automatically vacated and forfeited," the charter reads.

DeFillipo served on the city commission for five years before becoming mayor in 2018. When he ran for commissioner in 2013, his primary residence was a single-family house not far from Greynolds Park Elementary School. Records show DeFillipo sold that home in December 2021, and a financial report filed with the city this past summer lists the mayor's new residence as a condo on NE 170th Street in North Miami Beach.

The recent legal opinion also investigated allegations that DeFillipo repeatedly voted in local elections while maintaining a voter registration with the address of his prior home, even though he sold it the previous year.

Records from the Florida Department of State, Division of Elections, show DeFillipo recently cast ballots in North Miami Beach, including in the 2022 primary and general elections.

The opinion says that based on the limited evidence available, it's too early to determine whether the mayor's failure to update his voter registration was done willfully –– however, it says DeFillipo could be removed from office by the governor if sufficient evidence exists that he did knowingly submit false voter information.

The mayor filed for an emergency injunction in county court this week, calling for an immediate meeting with at least four commissioners to conduct city business. A hearing in the matter is scheduled for January 31.

Joseph has a history of conflict with DeFillipo dating back to 2019, when the mayor made a controversial comment about the firing of a city clerk. DeFillipo said on social media that commissioners ousted the clerk so they could "put in a person they could control, of their own heritage," a not-so-subtle reference to Joseph and other commissioners' Haitian American background.

Joseph found the comment to be racially charged and offensive, and he moved to reprimand DeFillipo.