One of the odder recent sagas in local politics has come to an end. Michael Pizzi is now back in as the official Mayor of Miami Lakes after more than a year-and-a-half absence. Wayne Slaton, the man who held the seat during Pizzi's lengthy legal hiatus, announced today that he's stepped down and will not appeal a court's decision last week in Pizzi's favor.
Pizzi was arrested back in August 2013 as part of an FBI sweep of possibly corrupt local politicians. Pizzi was accused of taking $7,000 in kickbacks to help push through the process of applying for federal grants for shady businessmen who turned out to be FBI plants. Though, the feds case against Pizzi turned out to be weak and nearly a year after his arrest, Pizzi was found not guilty on all charges.
Of course, Rick Scott suspended Pizzi from office after his arrest as required under federal law. The town held a special election and chose Slaton as its new muor. Pizzi has since won a number of legal cases that would allow his return to office. The latest decision came on Friday from a three-judge panel of the Third District Court of Appeals. The stay on the decision would have run out this week, paving Pizzi's return as Miami Lakes mayor unless Slaton and the town pursued another appeal.
Slaton and the town had maintained that since Pizzi's original term has run out he was no longer entitled to hold office anyway. The courts did not agree, and Slaton has finally relented.
During his announcement, however, Slaton signaled that he is open to possibly challenging Pizzi in an election next year.
The courts also ruled that the town owes Pizzi back pay he was entitled to after he was acquitted.
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