Beach commissioner Góngora says term limits don’t apply to him, runs for reelection

Despite a Miami Beach law preventing city commissioners from holding office for more than two full terms, Commissioner Michael Góngora filed paperwork Friday to run for a third.

Góngora, who is winding down the final months of a second four-year term on the city commission, told the Miami Herald on Friday that a 2014 voter referendum capping a commissioner’s time in office to two complete terms should not apply retroactively to include his first full term on the commission.

Góngora was first elected to the commission in 2006, winning a special election. He served one year in office before losing his seat in 2007. He was again elected in 2009, this time to a full, four-year term, before losing a bid for mayor in 2013. He then won a second four-year term in 2017.

He said he expects to receive pushback — either from the city or one of the four candidates running for his Group 3 seat.

“I fully expect that the city or one of the people running may challenge it,” said Góngora, who was most recently elected in 2017. “It is what it is.”

The city has previously said that Góngora could not run for reelection this fall due to term limits. The current law says the “lifetime term limit for Miami Beach Commissioners shall be two four-year terms and the lifetime term limit for Miami Beach Mayor shall be three two-year terms respectively, measured retroactively from their first elections…”

The 2014 referendum amended a previous law that prohibited commissioners from holding office for more more than two consecutive terms. Góngora, who was not a commissioner when the latest referendum passed, argued that that it does not apply to him because while the current law mentions measuring terms retroactively, the ballot question did not include such language.

He said he has received a legal opinion that he can run for reelection because the referendum was not “properly presented or adopted.”

“The voters weren’t given the full picture so by giving them a vague and incomplete question, I don’t believe that they voted to make it retroactive,” he told the Herald.

Even before Góngora announced his run for reelection, rumors about his political future made their way to his political rivals.

Michael Barrineau, a candidate running for Góngora’s seat, wrote an email to the Herald earlier this month saying he heard Góngora had begun telling friends of his plan to exploit a “loophole” in the city code.

“This is a matter to be decided by a judge in the coming weeks,” Barrineau wrote in a follow-up email to the Herald June 9. “I am confident that Commissioner Góngora is not my opponent now, nor will he be in the future.”

The 2014 referendum passed with 71% of the vote. Góngora, who said his supporters have pushed him to remain in public office, said he did not want to send the message to the public that he is trying to defy the intent of the voters in 2014. He said he wants the voters to decide in November whether or not to keep him in office.

“I believe that the people should have the right to determine whether they are happy with my service or not,” he said.

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