By Zachary Fagenson
MIAMI Fla (Reuters) – Both the sitting mayor and his predecessor in a small town near Miami are claiming the community’s top spot after a federal jury this week cleared suspended Mayor Michael Pizzi of corruption charges.
Following the acquittal on Thursday, Pizzi showed up at Miami Lakes town hall proclaiming: “I’m the mayor.”
But sitting Mayor Wayne Slaton, a town founder who took on the job when Pizzi was suspended last year, is not budging.
Pizzi was charged in August 2013 with one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and four counts of accepting bribes.
Prosecutors said that Pizzi accepted thousands of dollars in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as representatives of a Chicago consulting firm. Florida Gov. Rick Scott suspended him and Slaton won the seat in a special election in October.
A federal jury acquitted Pizzi of the charges Thursday after his lawyer, Benedict Kuehne, argued he had been trapped. Kuehne issued a press release after the acquittal calling on the governor to revoke the suspension.
But Scott on Friday refused to reinstate him on grounds Slaton’s election was for the remainder of Pizzi’s term, citing a provision in the Miami Lakes town charter that limits returns of public officials to office.
State law does allow public officials cleared of charges to reassume office. In 2011 Scott reinstated a suspended City of Miami commissioner who had also been indicted on public corruption charges and then cleared.
(Editing by Carey Gillam in Kansas City and Sonya Hepinstall)