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."