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Joel Jacobi quits disputed Bal Harbour Village Council seat

BAL HARBOUR
Joel Jacobi quits disputed Bal Harbour Village Council seat
A Bal Harbour council member resigned days after a civil suit claiming he did not live in the village went to trial.
By RODOLFO R. ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
Joel Jacobi, the Bal Harbour council member who tried to fight off allegations that he did not live in the village when he ran for reelection two years ago, resigned Monday.

The resignation came five days after the start of a civil trial challenging his election victory in 2007.

In his letter to the village clerk, Jacobi cited ”personal issues” for his sudden resignation.

”I finally came to the difficult decision that I could no longer fight this matter,” said Jacobi, who was a Village Council member for seven years. “It has exhausted me both financially and emotionally.”

His last day in office will be April 1. The Village Council plans to appoint a replacement to serve the rest of Jacobi’s term, which ends in 2011.

Jacobi, a family and personal-injury attorney, declined to comment.

His attorney, Joe Geller, said the resignation did not mean his client conceded he was ineligible to hold office.

The prospect of a lengthy and expensive trial and possible appeals was daunting, Geller said.

”You are talking about a job that pays $92 a month,” said Geller, who would not reveal how much Jacobi has spent on legal fees. “How much can you expect from the guy to sacrifice for a $92-a-month job?”

Jacobi’s former opponent, Lynne Bloch-Mullen, filed the civil lawsuit questioning whether Jacobi was living in the village when he defeated her in April 2007 with almost 70 percent of the vote.

The civil trial began Wednesday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

Jacobi ”elected to resign rather than await the court’s final ruling concerning his residency,” wrote Village Attorney Michael Popok in an e-mail to The Miami Herald.

Bloch-Mullen said Monday she was relieved the ordeal had ended.

The lawsuit argued that Jacobi lived at his North Miami Beach property and not his Bal Harbour co-op during the time period required to run for office — and pointed to payments made to Jacobi by a woman who was living at the Bal Harbour condominium as proof he was renting it out.

Jacobi had argued that the woman was a friend staying at his place. He said he purchased the North Miami Beach home as an investment property and for use as a weekend getaway.

Jacobi, a one-time judicial candidate, also faced ethics complaints following the 2007 election.

In November, the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust found he provided inaccurate information on his financial disclosure forms by not fully disclosing income he received from the woman staying at the Bal Harbour co-op from 2005 to 2007. In February, the commission fined Jacobi $3,500 plus $1,000 for investigative costs.

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