Miami-Dade State Lawyer’s Workplace Reviewing North Miami Seashore Controversy – NBC 6 South Florida
Parts of the city of North Miami Beach are at a standstill as questions linger over where the mayor lives and why city commissioners are not showing up to work.
Now, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office confirmed to NBC 6 that it is “involved in reviewing” whether there are any criminal violations of state law.
Two court battles continue over whether Mayor Anthony DeFillipo must vacate his seat for not living in the city, and at what point do city commissioners vacate their seats for not showing up to meetings.
Longtime election attorney Juan Carlos “JC” Planas told NBC 6 both of those are claims against the city charter, not state law. The state attorney may be looking into how the mayor voted, Planas said, something that is in that office’s jurisdiction.
In 2021, DeFillipo sold his longtime family home in North Miami Beach. However, he used that address to register and to vote in three elections in 2022: the primary, the general and a runoff election.
“If the mayor sold the house and has no ties to that address whatsoever, that could be a potentially serious violation,” Planas said.
The mayor’s opponents on the city commission and an outside law firm determined he lives in a $1.2 million house in Davie with his family and not a one-bedroom condo he showed NBC 6 in North Miami Beach.
Planas said an accurate voter registration may be key to showing where someone officially lives.
“The courts basically say that residency is decided by intent. Someone’s intent to put down roots,” Planas said. “The courts have stated that one of the best ways to show intent to putting down roots: you register to vote and you change your driver’s license to that new address.”
That outside law firm hired by the city wrote in an executive summary, “If such allegations of improper voting are proven and shown to be willful, DeFillipo could face charges or a conviction, and ultimately be removed from office by the governor.”
But in the report’s conclusion, they cautioned, “based on the limited evidence available, it is wholly premature to conclude whether DeFillipo’s failure to update his voter registration was done “willfully” to commit election fraud.”
“It was an oversight and I had it fixed immediately when I noticed,” DeFillipo told NBC 6 earlier this year. “That happens. We’re human. We make mistakes.”
NBC 6’s Willard Shepard looks more into the allegations over the North Miami Beach mayor’s residency.
On Monday, his attorney, Michael Pizzi, told NBC 6 his position has not changed.
“Whether he was living at the prior home or living in a condo, both in North Miami Beach, the vote would have counted just the same,” Pizzi said. “So it’s a distinction with no difference.”
He told NBC 6 he disagrees with Planas.
“I completely disagree. Mayor DeDillipo has not committed any state law violations. That’s ridiculous,” Pizzi said.
Pizzi argues the missing commissioners should get more scrutiny for stalling parts of the city while these court battles play out, and in his view, wasting tens of thousands of tax dollars along the way.
DeFillipo now has registered to vote in his one-bedroom North Miami Beach condo.
His allies are asking a court to remove one of the missing commissioners, Vice Mayor Michael Joseph, for missing more than 120 days on the dias.
Joseph denied that, telling NBC 6 he has not yet missed 120 days.
“The state attorney’s office knows what many of us have been demanding to know: Is Mr. DeFillipo covering up the truth about his residency to keep his seat or has he been removed from office for living outside the city? The answer is obvious. I hope our great city can finally get back to the people’s business without the distraction of these legal controversies,” Joseph wrote in a statement. “As for the frivolous lawsuit filed against me, it is clear that Mr. DeFillipo and his allies are doing whatever it takes to distract our residents from his repeated illegal voting and living in another county in violation of our city charter.”