Pity the poor taxpayers of Miami Lakes.
By the time a judge resolves the legal tussle over who should be mayor — Wayne Slaton or Michael Pizzi — the town’s tab could total hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Gisela Cardonne Ely made it crystal clear at a recent hearing that she wants to decide the bitter dispute as quickly as possible.
“The bottom line, as I read this case, is that former mayor, Mr. Pizzi, says that he is entitled to be the mayor as opposed to Mr. Slaton,” the judge declared at last Thursday’s hearing, involving 11 lawyers, with each charging $200 to $375 an hour. “Period. End of report, unless there is some other mysterious thing out there.”
Pizzi’s 2013 suspension from the mayor’s position was revoked in December by Gov. Rick Scott after he sued him, following his acquittal on federal bribery charges. Pizzi argues he is now entitled to his old job under Florida law.
But Slaton, who won a special election to fill Pizzi’s position during his suspension, refuses to give it back, citing the town’s charter.
At Thursday’s hearing, attorneys representing the town and Slaton said they first wanted to pursue a motion to dismiss Pizzi’s lawsuit to unseat the current mayor and then deal with the legal issues surrounding his claim for reinstatement.
The judge did not seem amused with their delay tactics.
“I’m not giving you an hour and a half on a motion to dismiss,” Cardonne Ely told the town’s attorney, Raul Gastesi. “File the motion. I will read it. I’m going to schedule it for 30 minutes very quickly.”
She scheduled a hearing on the motion to dismiss for Feb. 11. No date has been set for the legal question of Pizzi’s claim to his old job.
Meanwhile, Pizzi’s legal team agreed to drop the town clerk, Marjorie Tejeda-Castillo, as a defendant in his suit. But lawyers for the town and Slaton still had not agreed to it.
The result: More delays and legal costs for Miami Lakes taxpayers.