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Sanchez v. Lopez

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

May 3, 2017

Gonzalo C. Sanchez, as Chairman of the Recall Committee, and Providing Effective Government for all Residents, a political committee, Appellants,
v.
Orlando Lopez, individually and as Mayor of the City of Sweetwater, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower Tribunal No. 17-5123, Rodney Smith, Judge.

          Kuehne Davis Law, P.A., and Benedict P. Kuehne and Michael T. Davis; and KYMP and Juan-Carlos Planas, for appellants.

          Carballo Law, P.A., and Joseph A. Carballo and John Rodriguez; Coffey Burlington, P.L., and Kendall Coffey and Scott A. Hiaasen, for appellee.

          Before LAGOA, FERNANDEZ and LUCK, JJ.

          FERNANDEZ, J.

         Appellants Gonzalo C. Sanchez, etc., et al., appeal the trial court's final judgment concluding that the recall petition filed against appellee, Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez, did not state a valid ground for neglect of duty pursuant to the City Charter. We agree with the trial court that the recall petition, filed pursuant to section 100.361, Florida Statutes (2009), is legally insufficient as a matter of law and therefore affirm the court's final judgment.

         Appellants sought the recall of the mayor on the grounds that he failed to perform his duties as section 4.01(d)(10) of the City Charter requires. They alleged in the recall petition, among other things, that the mayor failed to attend numerous commission meetings, or provide staff to City Budget Workshops, which forced the cancellation of meetings and prevented commissioners from addressing important financial issues.[1] The mayor sought declaratory and injunctive relief to suspend the recall process. He mainly argued that the recall petition was invalid because he did not neglect his duties pursuant to the City Charter. The court found that the language of the recall petition was legally insufficient because the mayor's absence from commission meetings did not constitute neglect of duty under the City Charter.

         The duties of the Mayor of the City of Sweetwater are delineated in Article IV of the City Charter. Section 4.00 specifies that "[t]he executive authority of the City of Sweetwater will be vested in the mayor who will be responsible for the administration of the city government." Section 4.01 specifies the powers and duties of the mayor which include, in relevant part, the following:

(a) Position of mayor: The mayor shall be the chief executive officer of the City of Sweetwater and shall be responsible for the management and administration of the city government and the legislative power of the mayor shall be limited to his right to participate in meetings of the city commission, the power of veto, approval in writing of ordinances and resolutions as provided hereinafter in this section but the mayor shall not have a right to vote.
* * *
(d) Specific authority of mayor: The mayor shall:
(1) Appoint and when he deems it necessary for the good of the city, suspend or remove all city employees and appointive administrative officers provided for by or under this Charter or personnel rules adopted pursuant to this Charter subject to appeal to the city commission as more specifically set forth in section 3.06(e) of this Charter. The mayor may authorize any administrative officer who is subject to his direction and supervision to exercise these powers with respect to subordinates in that officer's department, office or agency.
(2) Direct and supervise the administration of all departments, offices and agencies of the city, except as otherwise ...

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