North Miami Beach mayor defends his livelihood against legislation

City Commission Meeting during public comment. (Jazmine Santillana/SFMN)

The mayor of North Miami Beach says an ordinance barring city officials from some real
estate transactions that need city approval is an attack on his livelihood.

Mayor Anthony DeFillipo has been a real estate broker for over 15 years.

The ordinance was proposed by Commissioner Michael Joseph and passed 5-1.

“This is illegal legislation,” said DeFillipo. “I’ve hired an attorney in this case and I
am suing the city.”

Joseph said the ordinance is meant to show the residents that the commission is about
“transparency and rooting out corruption.”

North Miami Beach is familiar with corruption.

Former Mayor George Vallejo pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in 2018. In
2020, former Commissioner Frantz Pierre pleaded guilty to bribery, grand theft, and money
laundering, among other charges.

Without providing names, Joseph implied commissioners in the past were involved in
real estate transactions with developers on properties that were presented to the City
Commission.

DeFillipo said that over the 10 years he has been on the City Commission, he has not seen
an issue between a local developer and a commissioner.

“What’s unethical is abusing your power,” said DeFillipo. “So I’m going to go on the
record that if something is being said, it be said with facts.”

Joseph refused to comment.

There are no records of commissioners involved in transactions with developers.

Commissioner Fortuna Smuckler believes the ordinance is a step in the right direction.

“To me, it’s a good start,” said Smuckler. “Although now it only includes Realtors,
maybe in the future we’ll include more professions to keep accountability.”

Commissioner Barbara Kramer said the ordinance points directly at DeFillipo.

“It is totally unnecessary,” said Kramer. “We’re entitled to make a living. It’s just wrong
and over the top.”

This is not the first time Joseph and DeFillipo have gone head to head on the
commission.

Hector Roos, a political campaign consultant and friend of Joseph, was accused of
illegally using the American Federation of State,County and Municipal Employees union logo to spread ads that compared DeFillipo to a mob boss.

“His buddy, Hector Roos, has said vulgar things about my family and myself,” said
DeFillipo. “They’ve even stolen union logos to send negative propaganda about me.”

The ad said DeFillipo’s family is a crime family, and called him Tony “Soprano”
DeFillipo.

DeFillipo filed a libel lawsuit against the union that was later dismissed.
In 2019, the City Commission censured DeFillipo for a Facebook post about Haitian
American commissioners firing the former city clerk to “put in a person of their own heritage and do what they want.”

Joseph proposed the resolution after he received death threats that he believes were
motivated by the Facebook post.

In 2020, the Miami Herald reported that the Miami-Dade County Ethics Commission
received a referral from DeFillipo’s attorney that Joseph was abusing his power as a
commissioner.

Joseph was accused of seeking an opinion aside from the city attorney about whether
DeFillipo’s term limits and whether he was able to run for mayor again. But DeFillipo said Joseph sponsored this ordinance out of spite.

Last November, commissioners voted to increase their compensation by $6,500.
The vote was 4-3 but the North Miami Beach City charter says the vote must have five
votes for a compensation increase.

“Michael got mad because I brought it up to the ethics board,” said DeFillipo.“But that’s
because they’re trying to make it a full-time job when it’s a part-time job.”

DeFillipo said that is what working for the city is about giving to the people of North
Miami Beach.

“I’m in it for the people, not the money,” said DeFillipo. “You’re supposed to show your
support for the people, to govern. That’s why I’m trying to keep my job.”

The ordinance took effect on March 24 and requires city officials to recuse themselves in meetings if a property they are involved in is presented to the commission.

City officials are required to pay a $1,000 fine and go before the Miami-Dade County
Ethics Commission if they recuse themselves but continue receiving payment from the real estate transaction.

The mayor was not present during the commission meeting in March to participate in the
voting process.

Jazmine Santillana is a junior majoring in journalism. After her studies, she wishes to pursue a career in digital journalism.