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Hearing begins on whether to reinstate former Miami Lakes mayor

Michael Pizzi seeks reinstatement as mayor after acquittal on federal charges

MIAMI – A former South Florida mayor cleared of federal corruption charges could soon get his old job back.

Michael Pizzi filed a lawsuit in January, claiming that he should be reinstated as mayor of Miami Lakes to serve out the remainder of his term through November 2016.

Attorneys for Pizzi and current Mayor Wayne Slaton argued their positions in court Wednesday.

"The voters elected Mayor Slaton to fill out the remainder of the term, and that election cannot be undone," Miami Lakes attorney J.C. Planas said.

"When Mayor Slaton won the election, Mr. Pizzi's occupancy of the office expired," Slaton's attorney, Elizabeth Hernandez, said.

"They say, 'You can't undo an election,'" Pizzi's attorney, Edward Shohat, countered. "Well, they're undoing Mr. Pizzi's election."

A Miami-Dade County judge told attorneys that she would not be making a decision for possibly a week to as long as 10 days.

The former mayor was charged with seven counts of bribery and extortion in October 2013. He was accused of accepting $6,500 from undercover FBI agents who were posing as crooked Chicago businessmen. They promised Pizzi a big federal grant and money for himself.

He was acquitted on all charges last August.

Pizzi then sought to have Gov. Rick Scott end his suspension as mayor because of his acquittal. Scott refused to do so, pointing out that voters elected a new mayor in a special election after Pizzi's arrest last year.

Under state statute, an elected official is supposed to be reinstated if he or she is cleared of criminal charges.

Scott lifted Pizzi's suspension in December after a majority of Florida Supreme Court justices agreed with Pizzi. But Scott's order did not reinstate Pizzi as mayor.

Slaton has said he has no intention of stepping aside.

"The previous election was important, but the last election is the most important," Slaton said Wednesday.

Pizzi called Slaton's position "ridiculous."

"I was found innocent, and I'm going to be restored as mayor because I'm an innocent man and that's what's required in a democracy and under the Constitution of the United States, and I think the judge will give a good result," Pizzi said.

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