NORTH BAY VILLAGE (CBSMiami) – The North Bay Village mayor who won office by just six votes, and spent her year in office mired in controversy and investigations, resigned Friday while claiming she had done nothing wrong.
Corina Esquijarosa has been under investigation for the illegal use of the state’s Homestead Exemption law, which allows homeowners to mitigate part of their property’s value, lowering their taxes.
The law requires a person to be living in the property for which they are claiming the exemption. Esquijarosa said her legal residence was in North Bay Village, a requirement for being elected mayor, but she claimed a homestead exemption on an apartment in Miami which was being rented to a family.
Despite the rental arrangement, public records showed she claimed the exemption in 2010 and 1011, Her husband also claimed an exemption on an adjacent property the couple owned together which was also rented out, and for which they did not meet the requirements for an exemption.
The Miami-Dade Assessor’s office demanded repayment, and when they didn’t get it, they filed a lien against Esquijarosa’s property for $3,109.70 in back taxes and penalties.
Prosecutors seized records from her office as part of a fraud investigation. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald reported the prosecutor in that case offered to drop fraud charges if Esquijarosa resigned.
Esquijarosa claimed improper homestead claim, and failure to report the income she received from the rental of the property were just unintentional. However,the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust fined her $500 for violating the county ethics code. A recall effort was underway, with organizers collecting almost 5 times the required number of signatures.
The city is now investigating what needs to be done to replace the mayor. As of Saturday morning, her bio and picture still appeared on the City’s website