A Florida judge has rejected attempts by Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to dismiss the lawsuit brought against him by a Florida legislator for the misappropriation of taxpayer funds to fly migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.
State Senator Jason Pizzo (D) filed the complaint after Governor DeSantis spent millions on the political stunt using money earmarked for relocations originating in the Sunshine State.
In June, DeSantis signed the state’s 2022-2023 budget – a bi-partisan agreement giving the Department of Transportation the authority to use $12 million in interest earned from Covid-19 relief money to transport undocumented migrants out of Florida.
Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened.
Instead, operatives working on Governor DeSantis’ behalf traveled to San Antonio, Texas, and misled asylum seekers who were primarily Venezuelan refugees.
The unsuspecting refugees were lured with fast food gift cards and falsely told that jobs, resources, and education opportunities were waiting for them in Massachusetts.
Florida law mandates that sealed bids for contracts over $35,000, but the Florida Department of Transportation is accused of violating that law by creating “written guidelines,” Sen. Pizzo argues.
The duplicity of Governor DeSantis’ administration was discovered in records obtained by the Florida Center for Government Accountability.
Destin-based Vertol Systems – whose Chief Executive Officer was a client of DeSantis’ public safety czar, Larry Keefe — was reportedly paid $650,000, in one instance, and $950,000, in another, for two separate charter flights that flew 49 asylum seekers from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard.
A third flight was canceled after public backlash, though additional funds were paid to Vertol with no record of any other flights having taken place.
Nice try, Ron, but you lose again. Judge rejects DeSantis administration’s bid to toss lawsuit over migrant flights https://t.co/68Rxmu0uIk
— Lesley Abravanel (@lesleyabravanel) January 14, 2023
Leon County Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper questioned Nicholas Meros, the governor’s deputy general counsel, about allegations that a new program was created.
Meros told the judge that there wasn’t a new program, but the expansion of an existing one that bars giving a contract to those transporting undocumented migrants into the State of Florida.
The problem with Meros’ statement is the legislation he’s referring to wasn’t signed into law by Gov. DeSantis until over two weeks after the budget and migrant relocation provision.
The law wasn’t on the books or in effect at the time the shameful relocation took place.
Sen. Pizzo wants the $12 million budget allocation removed as unconstitutional and for the governor’s administration to be blocked from spending more of Floridians’ money on his political stunts.
The North Miami-based state legislator is arguing that DeSantis’ actions are in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause which gives sole authority over immigration to the federal government – not the states.
Occupy Democrats reached out to Senator Pizzo via text and is awaiting a reply.
Judge Cooper removed Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis from Sen. Pizzo’s lawsuit after his attorney successfully argues that Patronis lacked the authority to determine how the money is spent.
A court date of January 30th has been set for the remaining defendants.
Original reporting by Bianca Padro Ocasio at The Miami Herald.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick