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Bal Harbour council seeks applicants to replace councilman

BAL HARBOUR

BY RODOLFO R. ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
Lynne Bloch-Mullen, the former candidate who filed a lawsuit questioning Councilman Joel Jacobi’s residency — leading to his recent resignation — is throwing her hat into the ring once again.

Jacobi announced his resignation Monday, sending his official notice to the the village clerk days after the start of a civil trial challenging his eligibility to hold office.

His resignation takes effect April 1.

Citing ”personal issues” in his letter, Jacobi said fending off allegations that he did not live in Bal Harbour had “exhausted me both financially and emotionally.”

The council, which will appoint someone to serve the rest of Jacobi’s term, is now accepting resumes from those interested in replacing him. The successor would serve until the end of the term in 2011.

The council unanimously agreed to begin the appointment process at a special meeting Thursday.

Bloch-Mullen had argued in her civil suit that she should be automatically appointed should Jacobi leave — or be removed — from office.

But a judge agreed with the village that the council had the right to appoint Jacobi’s successor.

Bloch-Mullen said she’s submitting her resume nonetheless.

”I was the only qualified candidate and should have been seated on the council unopposed,” she said Thursday.

Bloch-Mullen lost to Jacobi in 2007, with a little more than 30 percent of the vote.

Bloch-Mullen and her supporters alleged that Jacobi did not live in Bal Harbour during the time required to qualify for public office, but that he instead lived in a home he owns in North Miami Beach.

Jacobi has insisted that he does live in his Bal Harbour residence, but said he resigned rather than face a lengthy trial and possible appeals process.

The civil trial began March 18.

As the council discussed finding a replacement for Jacobi on Thursday, it also was faced with a new round of questions challenging the residency of a current candidate for the Bal Harbour council.

Patricia Cohen, who is running for the District 3 seat in the April 7 election, defended herself after a resident pointed out she had filed a homestead exemption on a Surfside property — not on the Bal Harbour condo she lists as her permanent address.

Resident Anamarie Kelly, a former real estate agent, brought her concerns to village officials after she said she ran across the Cohen’s homestead exemption while researching properties in Surfside.

”The woman probably doesn’t know,” Kelly said. ”Her ineptness is relevant to the issue of her running as a candidate.” Miami-Dade property records show Cohen did in fact claim a homestead exemption on her Surfside property in 2008. Cohen said that’s an error on her part.

Cohen said she mistakenly filed for the homestead exemption, but insisted her condo in Bal Harbour is her true residence.

She said she had temporarily moved to Surfside while the Harbour House was under renovation — one of many residents required to leave the building until work was completed.

She returned permanently to Harbour House in October 2007, she told the council.

” I didn’t meet the deadline to change the homestead address. I made a mistake,” she told the council, noting that her driver’s license and voters registration list the Harbour House address.

After reviewing the documents, the council agreed that Cohen was eligible.

But her opponent, Barbara Grossman, questioned Cohen’s competency.

”I am upset about this because if she can make a mistake like this what mistake can she do as a council member,” she said.

“It’s not a good representation of the council.”

Grossman, who is also a resident of Harbour House, was also temporarily displaced because of renovations.

Under Bal Harbour’s charter, candidates for the village council must reside in the village for at least one year before filing to run for office.

Also running for office in the April 7 elections: Council member Jean Rosenfield, currently serving as assistant mayor, and challenger Abraham G. Gotman, who are competing for the District 1 seat. Joni D. Blachar won the District 5 seat unopposed when she did not draw any challengers by the end of the qualifying period March 7.

A candidate forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at Village Hall, 655 96th St.

The village will be accepting resumes from residents interested in filling Jacobi’s seat until April 10.

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