Judge Rules Mike Pizzi Can Return to Mayor's Seat in Miami Lakes

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Miami and help keep the future of New Times free.

Former Mayor Lakes Mayor Mike Pizzi is about to pull a Michelle Spence-Jones. Like the former City of Miami commissioner, the ex-mayor was removed from office after being hit with corruption charges, then beat the charges in court, and has now won a favorable ruling in a lawsuit to return to his seat. 

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Gisela Cardonne Ely ruled today that not only can Pizzi return to power in Miami Lakes, he'll also also receive backpay. Though, the judge has given the town of Miami Lakes 30 days to appeal the decision. 

Pizzi was removed from office on August 6, 2013. An FBI investigation lead to charges of bribery. The feds claimed Pizzi took a a bribe of a wad of cash and cigar in exchange for backing a resolution in Miami Lakes  to apply for federal grants through what turned out to be a fake Chicago-based company named Sunshine Universal. Pizzi also agreed to back a similar resolution in Medley, they said, where he concurrently served as that town's city attorney. In exchange he'd get $6,000 in cash and $750 in campaign contributions. (Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Maroño was also busted that same morning in a similar sting, but wound up sentenced to 40 months behind bars.)

But it turns out that the FBI's case against Pizzi was weak. Pizzi maintained he was a victim of entrapment. A jury agreed, and Pizzi walked out with a non-guilty verdict this past August

Pizzi quickly began to seek reinstatement to his office. In December he won a judgment in the state Supreme Court requiring Gov. Rick Scott to lift a suspension that forbid him from holding office. He then filed this suit to return to his former chair. The 30-day stay, however, means that the ball is now in the town council's court. 

"We appreciate the court’s time on this issue. Important charter issues like these are almost never decided at the trial court level," reads a statement from the town given to the Miami Herald. “The Town Council will be meeting with the Town Attorney over the next few days to discuss the next steps.”

Of course, the town had already picked a new mayor, as required under its charter. Wayne Slaton was elected in a special election shortly after Pizzi's suspension. Slaton, however, has indicated that he believes the town's voters elected him to serve out the term until 2016. Likewise, the Supreme Court decision lifting Pizzi's suspension referred to Slaton as the town's "permanent mayor." 

Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.