Meeting Over Controversial Pesticide Is Cancelled, So Concerned Citizens Say It's Back To Court
A meeting between Miami-Dade County officials and county residents concerned about aerial mosquito spraying was cancelled Monday.
The reason? If you ask the county, it's because City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and his daughter Raquel Regalado showed up unexpectedly. If you ask the concerned citizens, it's because Miami-Dade Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak and county attorneys didn't show up at all.
Earlier this summer, Miami Beach residents Cindy Mattson and Dr. Michael Hall filed a lawsuit in federal court to try to get Miami-Dade County mosquito control to stop spraying a pesticide called Naled. They were worried about possible negative health effects, including a recent study showing a potential link between Naled exposure and developmental delays in infants.
Their case was dismissed by a federal judge who recommended county officials meet with the plaintiffs. That meeting was supposed to happen at 2 p.m. Monday, and Hall said he and Mattson -- along with Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, a vocal opponent of Naled spraying -- expected to meet with Alina Hudak, the deputy county mayor who oversees mosquito control, and county attorneys, among others.
Hall also invited Raquel Regalado, a former Miami-Dade school board member and former county mayoral candidate who's a lawyer by training and was serving as legal counsel going into the meeting. Hall said Regalado will extended the invitation to her father, City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado. According to a county spokesman, the additional invitees are why county officials and their attorneys ultimately decided the meeting was a no-go.
"The discussion was to take place between the two parties involved in litigation," said county spokesman Michael Hernandez. He said the county did not expect the Regalados to be in attendance, and that the county attorneys advised against holding a meeting that included people not directly involved in litigation that could be ongoing.
Around 2:30 p.m., Hernandez said, county attorneys informed Hall and the others that the meeting would not happen.
Hall disputed that statement; he said no one from the county ever said the meeting was cancelled.
"We never saw anyone that was an official, even on our way out," he said. He and Rosen Gonzalez say their party decided to leave after waiting for more than 30 minutes for the discussion to take place.
"My constituents and I prepared for this meeting. I had it on my calendar, and I would expect someone from the county to show up," Rosen Gonzalez said.
Hernandez, the county spokesman, said the meeting was not court mandated and described the presence of Rosen Gonzalez and the Regalados as "political grandstanding."
"It's not lost on us that the meeting would've included two congressional candidates," he said. Regalado and Rosen Gonzalez are both running for the 27th Congressional District seat vacated by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- Regalado as a Republican and Rosen Gonzalez as a Democrat.
Rosen Gonzalez said she was "shocked" when Mayor Regalado and Raquel Regalado arrived, but "regardless of whether or not they were in attendance... my constituents prepared presentations and put a lot of work into it.
"I was looking forward to having a dialogue with mosquito control."
Hall and Mattson say they’re going to re-file their lawsuit to get the county to stop aerial spraying of Naled. They say Raquel Regalado, who's a lawyer by training, will be representing them in court.
Rosen Gonzalez says she's happy Regalado has taken up the cause.
"My primary objective is to make sure they don't spray Miami Beach with Naled again."
This story has been updated with comments from Dr. Michael Hall.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Miami-Dade County officials were not aware Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez would be at the meeting. The county officials say they did know in advance of the meeting that Rosen Gonzalez would be in attendance.