Pizzi lawsuit back in court

Friday, October 18, 2019 0 Comments

After a federal jury found in 2014 that former Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi was not guilty of conspiracy to commit extortion and bribery, he sought to have the town pay more than $2.5 million in legal fees.
Pizzi was mayor in 2013 when the FBI arrested him in a sting, and then Gov. Rick Scott suspended him from office.
After Pizzi was acquitted and reinstated as mayor, he sued the town to recover the costs of his defense.
The town has fought paying Pizzi and cited a policy that would allow it to decide whether to provide a lawyer for a town official, according to court documents.
A trial court judge ruled Pizzi’s claim for reimbursement was invalid because the town council had “absolute discretion” about providing an attorney or whether an official could seek payment for legal fees after the fact.
The Third Court of Appeals on Oct. 2 disagreed with the lower court’s ruling.
The appeals court also said the town was not required to pay Pizzi’s legal bills without either questioning the amounts or if fees were reasonable, and returned the case to trial court.
“The town should’ve reimbursed us the day after I was acquitted,” Pizzi told The Miami Laker. “It’s in the best interest of the taxpayers to follow the law and pay the fees.”
Town attorney Raul
Gastesi’s statement said in part, “The decision specifically provides that Mr. Pizzi must still prove that his inexplicable actions and extremely poor judgment were for a public purpose ...
The Appellate Court reiterated that this was merely a technical reversal and not a decision on the merits nor in any way condoning Mr. Pizzi’s conduct.”
The council will discuss next steps in an executive session on Oct. 22.
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