Village sued over $100 million GO Bond referendum

Versión en español

A Key Biscayne resident has filed a civil suit against the Village seeking to void the Nov. 3 referendum measure that would allow the village to borrow up to $100 million in General Obligation Bonds for projects aimed at protecting the island against sea level rise and the effect of hurricanes.

The suit was filed Friday by Miami attorney David Winker in the Circuit Court of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit for Miami-Dade County, on behalf of Gustavo Tellez.

Tellez contends the bond referendum is illegal or inappropriate and should be held null and void by the country. He contents:

1. It  violates the Village Charter  because it authorizes the borrowing of money without an ordinance.

2.  The language used in the referendum does not comply with Florida statutes or requirements as laid out in the Village Charter.

3. Voters do not have enough information to intelligently vote on the bond referendum, as required by Florida law.

Tellez contends the referendum is, in essence, a $100 million “blank check” for the Village Council to spend at will, and the citizens are insufficiently informed about what the projects entail.

For its part, the Village created a website -- https://www.vkbresilience.org -- devoted to the future projects that would tap into GO Bonds. It spells out three areas where GO bond money would be used: 

  1. Mitigating the effects of sea level rise and flooding;

  2. Protecting Village beaches and shoreline; 

  3. Hardening infrastructure to the effects of hurricanes.

Even that, Tellez, contends, fails to provide “any clear understanding of what projects the $100,000,000 will be spent on.

Attorney Winker told the Islander News  on Friday that the lawsuit’s focus is on transparency and accountability.

“This is not a case about resiliency -- the science is clear that we must deal with the effects of climate change.  Nor is this case about whether accomplishing resiliency requires local (government)  raising money -- the work that needs to be done to ensure our future is going to require substantial investment,” Winker said. “This case is about what good governance and public participation in Village decision-making should look like.” 

The suit said that advocates for the bonds claimed authorizing them now was necessary to take advantage of current low interest rates: 

“While advocates have conceded -- after-the-fact -- that the interest rate cannot be locked-in until funding actually occurs, the Village Commission passed a resolution seeking voter authorization of a pre-approved line-of-credit secured with resident ad valorem taxes … for unknown projects ... with unknown costs ... at unknown interest rates and terms to be determined in the Village Council’s sole discretion at a future unknown date.”

Tellez is asking that the court declare the bond referendum illegal and void. He also wants the court to declare that the Village must comply with the e Village Charter. Additionally, he wants  his attorney and court costs covered by the village.

Contacted late Friday, Key Biscayne Mayor Mike Davey said, “I’ve not seen the lawsuit but I’m confident that our attorneys properly guided us through this process and we will prevail.”

The Village is expected to be formally notified of the lawsuit on Monday.

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