Police Union Prepares Lawsuit Over Recall After Overwhelming Vote to Oust Regalado

The morning after the police union overwhelmingly voted to back a recall of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, union lawyers are drafting a lawsuit to force the city to figure out how to make it happen. The problem, according to union chief Armando Aguilar, is that the city charter specifies officials can be recalled -- but then never spells out how to do so.

"It's so typical of the City of Miami," Aguilar tells Riptide.

Aguilar's union met last night to vote on whether to help oust the mayor. Of the 900-plus active members, 448 voted -- 432 for a recall and just 16 against.

The vote came at the same time commissioners held a closed-door session at city hall to decide whether to cut union contracts to try to plug a looming $61 million budget gap.

Aguilar says the vote was so lopsided because his members believe that Regalado has mismanaged the city into its financial black hole.

"I've worked in this city for 30 years and I've never seen it this bad," Aguilar says. "There's a lot of frustration."

Now Aguilar's union must look to the courts to figure out how to organize a recall. Although the city charter states, "The mayor and all other members of the city commission are subject to recall," it never bothers to specify how to put a recall on the ballot.

The city could look to state law, but City Attorney Julie Bru issued an opinion yesterday that she doesn't think Regalado would be subjected to recall under the state provision; state rules apply to "legislative officials," while Regalado is technically an "executive," she says.

Aguilar says his lawyers will ask a judge either to force the city to write a recall provision or to follow state or county rules.

The police will likely be joined by the 1,100-strong firefighters union, which is scheduled to vote tonight on whether to back the recall.

Many have questioned how the unions would finance a recall without a big-money financier such as Norman Braman, who has already made it clear he's in Regalado's corner in this fight. But Aguilar says the unions' grassroots networks could get the job done.

"Just because in the last recall Norman Braman spent a million of his own dollars because he's got money to waste doesn't mean it has to be that expensive," Aguilar says. "We have thousands of volunteers. We could get the signatures."

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