By Zachary Fagenson
MIAMI (Reuters) - A dispute between two men claiming to be mayor of a small town near Miami will likely be decided in court after both showed up at city hall on Monday.
A federal jury last week acquitted Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi on one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and four counts of accepting bribes.
Pizzi was suspended from his post in August 2013 when he was indicted. Florida Governor Rick Scott last week refused to reinstate him following his exoneration.
Scott said that sitting Mayor Wayne Slaton, who was elected to replace the suspended mayor in October 2013, should serve out the remainder of Pizzi’s term, citing a provision in the Miami Lakes town charter that limits return of public officials to office.
Pizzi, however, contended that he was suspended under the state’s constitution, which allows him to return to office following his acquittal.
Florida law does allow public officials cleared of charges to reassume office. In 2011 Scott reinstated a suspended City of Miami commissioner who indicted on public corruption charges and then cleared.
“I’m going to ask my attorneys to go to court this week and get a court order ordering the staff to respect me as the mayor,” Pizzi said during a town hall visit on Monday.
But Slaton, a town founder and former mayor, said during a rival town hall press conference he also wouldn’t budge.
“The town is moving forward,” he said on Monday. “We are taking care of business.”
During his trial, prosecutors said Pizzi accepted thousands of dollars from undercover FBI agents posing as representatives of a Chicago consulting firm. Pizzi’s lawyer, Benedict Kuehne, argued he had been entrapped.