By Gabriella Indart, Melanie Maestre, Ana Mijares, and Christine Romero
In 2013, former Miami Lakes Mayor, Michael “Muscles” Pizzi, was suspended from office on bribery charges in a federal bogus grant scheme. As his replacement, his rival in the 2012 mayoral election, Wayne Slaton, was given a special election and gained the position of mayor.
Later on, these charges were ruled false by the Supreme Court and Pizzi was acquitted. Today, Pizzi fights for his former position of mayor, much to the distaste of Wayne Slaton. The current debate is whether Pizzi will be allowed to return to serve his remainder of term.
Pizzi’s suspension was ordered by Governor Rick Scott in 2013 after Pizzi was accused of accepting $6,750 in kickbacks from government men posing as shady Chicago businessmen in exchange for supporting sham federal grant applications.
Despite being acquitted of these charges, Wayne Slaton does not believe that the former mayor should gain his office back on the basis that his orders from the Supreme Court and Governor Rick Scott state that his term will run until the next regularly scheduled election in November 2016. Still, Pizzi is fighting for his old job back through a lawsuit to unseat the current mayor.
“I think this lawsuit is polarizing the community. On one hand it is pitting the Slaton supporters against the Pizzi supporters, but I don’t think it’s so much a matter of supporting Pizzi because they like his politics, but because if he was found not guilty, then the right thing to do would be to return his job to him. I think that many people who support Slaton may have supported simply to accept having him if there was a conviction. Yet I’m sure that a lot of the people did not vote for Slaton to convict Pizzi regardless of what the court had to say,” said Mrs. Mixco, head of the Entrepreneurship Academy. d gain reinstatement.
Unfortunately for taxpayers, Wayne’s defense against Pizzi’s lawsuit might leave the town of Miami Lakes with a debt totaling over hundreds of thousands of dollars as his 11 defense attorneys try to protect him on this case.
“For Slaton’s defense the town is paying for two separate law firms at hourly rates ranging from $250-375. Then Pizzi is also suing the town register or treasurer and the town is also paying for her defense. From a legal standpoint, elected officials should be indemnified in order to protect their personal assets from a lawsuit arising from some town issue. That being said, I think that it is abhorrent that our taxpayers’ dollars are being spent on this circus,” said Daniel Borges, a Certified Personal Accountant (CPA) and resident affected by the taxes imposed.
Last month, attorneys representing the town and Slaton said they first wanted to pursue a motion to dismiss Pizzi’s lawsuit to unseat the current mayor the deal with the legal issues surrounding his claim for reinstatement.
“It’s going to be very hard for Pizzi to get his job back as the state constitution allows Governor Rick Scott to take the position he has taken. So what the governor is doing is wrong in my opinion, but it’s perfectly legal. It all comes down to what the court decides,” said Mrs. Mixco.
Whether or not Pizzi’s lawsuit is successful, the decision will come down to Governor Rick Scott who has taken the position as the median in deciding on whether Pizzi should be reinstated.
“Unfortunately I don’t think it will get fixed and like many things in life we can only learn from our mistakes. From here I think that the town should amend the charter and spell out in further detail what happens when you are suspended from office and when a special election is held,” said Daniel Borges.