GO Bond lawsuit once again rejected, clearing path for Village to move on resiliency infrastructure projects

Yogi Berra's famous line, "It ain't over 'til it's over," certainly applied to one court case involving the Village of Key Biscayne.

Versión en español

Nearly two years since Gustavo Tellez filed legal paperwork to quash a ballot for a $100 million General Obligation (GO) Bond Referendum, three judges Wednesday in Miami's Third District Court of Appeal affirmed a lower court's decision to deny the plaintiff's motion for a rehearing.

The GO Bond money, designed to be used in three areas of resiliency and sustainability, was approved by voters in the Nov. 3, 2020 election.

"We are very pleased with the result this morning from the appellate court," said Joseph H. Serota who, with Laura K. Wendell, represented the Village as part of the legal team of Weiss Serota Helfman Cole + Bierman. "We never thought that the appeal had merit, but we are nonetheless happy that the court has now agreed with us.”

Village Manager Steve Williamson also was pleased with the decision.

"It's great news," he said. "We are excited to be able to take the GOB into consideration as we kick off our resilient infrastructure plan."

Chief Judge Ivan F. Fernandez, along with Edwin A. Scales III and Alexander S. Bokor, made the decision in the Third District Court of Appeals, and it was made public Wednesday morning.

As far as Case No. 3D21-2140 is concerned, if 15 days pass and there is no motion filed by either party, a mandate decision will immediately close the case, usually a formality.

"We appreciate the court's consideration of the concerns we raised in the statutory bond validation process, and respect the court's decision," Coral Gables attorney David Winker said Wednesday afternoon, on behalf of his client, Tellez.

Winker did not say if further action is anticipated.

The Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit in Miami-Dade County had denied Tellez's motion for a rehearing, which was filed July 14, 2021. That motion came in the wake of the Key Biscayne resident's lawsuit contending he and others did not have the proper information to cast a reasonable ballot and sought to invalidate that vote.

The original filed date of the lawsuit goes back to Sept. 25, 2020, well before the election took place.

Last summer, Judge Samantha Ruiz-Cohen, in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court, had ruled in favor of the Village, apparently putting an end to Tellez's lawsuit that held up potentially critical projects. But Winker filed a motion for a rehearing to contend several issues that might have been overlooked, and was eventually denied.

In the 11th Judicial Circuit’s decision handed down on Sept. 28, 2021, it read in part:

“The Motion fails to present any legal or factual basis to obtain a rehearing. Instead, the Motion simply rehashes and repeats the same arguments previously made, which were rejected by this Court. ... On this basis alone, the Motion should be denied. Additionally, Plaintiff’s Motion is entirely without merit.”

Voters on the island had approved the GO Bond Referendum in 2020 by a 56.44 to 43.56 percent margin. Bond money is to be targeted to protect the Village e from effects of sea-level rise and hurricanes, as the ballot read:

1. Mitigate effects of sea level rise and flooding;

2. Protect Village beaches and shoreline; and,

3. Harden infrastructure to the effects of hurricanes.

"The trial court decision and the appellate decision today will now permit the bond process to proceed and the very important needs of the Village to improve its infrastructure to be addressed," Serota said.

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