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Michael Pizzi, Miami Lakes battle to determine who should be mayor

Appellate court hears arguments from attorneys for former mayor, city

A closed-door meeting was held in Miami Lakes Friday as town leaders decided whether to appeal a court's decision to reinstate former Mayor Michael Pizzi.

MIAMI – A fight to determine who should be mayor of Miami Lakes continued Wednesday morning between the city and former Mayor Michael Pizzi.

Judges from the Third District Court of Appeal heard arguments from Pizzi's attorney, as well as attorneys for Miami Lakes and sitting Mayor Wayne Slaton.

A Miami-Dade County judge ruled in March that Pizzi "is entitled to resume his duties" as mayor and receive all back pay, but she issued a stay on the ruling pending appellate review.

"The governor removed Michael Pizzi temporarily and the governor revoked that removal," Pizzi's attorney, Ben Kuehne, argued. "That means Michael Pizzi is and remains the mayor."

Pizzi was suspended by Gov. Rick Scott after he was charged with bribery and extortion in August 2013, but he was acquitted last year. Pizzi's attorneys contend that he should have been automatically reinstated, but attorneys for the city and Slaton, who was elected during Pizzi's suspension, disagree.

"The charter is 100 percent clear that there was an election for a new mayor (and) that Mayor Pizzi's term expired," city attorney Raul Gastesi said. "Mayor Pizzi's citing a statute -- a state statute -- that he believes is in conflict with the charter."

Attorneys for both sides seemed confident of victory.

"We remain confident that the court understands the legal issues and will issue an order appropriately affirming Judge (Gisela) Cardon Illea's order," Kuehne said.

Gastesi said he is "eagerly awaiting the court's decision."

The judges have until the end of the month to issue a ruling.

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