MIAMI – On Friday night, the city of North Miami Beach received a legal opinion from an outside attorney saying Mayor Anthony DeFillipo has “automatically vacated” his seat by not residing in North Miami Beach, one of the requirements to hold office in the city.
There is a legal battle underway, as some question whether the mayor should be able to keep his job.
CBS4’s Joe Gorchow spoke to the mayor’s attorney on Friday evening.
CBS4 exclusively obtained the memo sent hours ago to city commissioners. It alleges the mayor has been living in Davie since last year.
The mayor vehemently refutes the allegations and will challenge the findings.
His lawyer calls the claims slanderous.
“This is a politically contrived witch hunt by political opponents.”
Mayor Anthony DeFillipo’s attorney Michael Pizzi slammed the 43-page memo released Friday night and exclusively obtained by CBS4.
The city hired an outside attorney, Luis Suarez, to investigate the matter. His findings state the mayor failed to “continually maintain a “bona fide” residence in North Miami Beach, an ‘automatic vacancy’ of the office of mayor has occurred by operation of law. It would indeed belie logic to conclude otherwise.”
The memo also states the mayor voted improperly. After combing through voting records, our investigation found DeFillipo voted three times in 2022 from a North Miami Beach home he sold in 2021.
“The mayor violated no election laws. The mayor, at all times, had a right to vote in the city in which he has lived in for 40 years.”
Looking at more documents, we found DeFillipo re-registered his voting address last month in a different North Miami Beach precinct. The new home is a condo in the Eastern Shores neighborhood.
DeFillipo has a wife and two children.
Gorchow asks, “Where is the mayor spending most of his time? Is he living in that 830-square-foot condo?
“Yes. He’s living at the location that’s on his public records. He’s there right now. It’s his permanent residence.”
Our investigation and the memo bring that into question. His lawyer did not say where his family lives. We searched property records and saw DeFillipo purchased a 1.2 million dollar home in Davie last July.
The memo cites a private investigation of photos and video claiming the mayor was living primarily with his family in Davie and not at the condo.
“How many days a week does he stay away from his family to live in North Miami Beach?” asks Gorchow.
“It’s really sad, including people who may have a financial self-interest, political opponents, following around a public servant trying to follow their family. It’s disgusting,” Pizzi said.
Based on the memo’s findings, the city attorney, in a letter to commissioners Friday night, recommends “a Special City Commission meeting be held to discuss how the vacancy will be filled.”
“Our city attorney has concurred with the legal opinion. We have an obligation to act on that finding.” “The city has to continue doing business, and the six commissioners are ready to do that business,” Commissioner McKenzie Fleurimond said.
And do that business without DeFillipo as the mayor.
Gorchow spoke with Commissioner Fleurimond, who says they will abide by the legal opinion to allow due process. He believes the appropriate place for DeFillipo to challenge the finding is in the court system.
DeFillipo’s lawyers intend to respond and fight the opinion from the city that he longer lives in North Miami Beach and has vacated his seat.