Fort Lauderdale attorney Mitchell Berger will advise the Miami City Commission on matters relating to a lawsuit filed against the mayor and the state attorney by Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.
Berger, who agreed to do the work for free, is best known for representing former Vice President Al Gore and former Sen. Joseph Lieberman in the Florida lawsuits stemming from the 2000 presidential election controversy.
Berger was considered along with three other high-profile attorneys: former Miami U.S. Attorney Marcos Jimenez, former Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Israel Reyes and former Miami-Dade County Court Judge Ana Maria Pando.
Only Berger offered his legal services for free, Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff said.
When I say he is a top-notch lawyer, he really is, Sarnoff said.
In the federal lawsuit, Spence-Jones accuses Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle and Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado of plotting to destroy her political career in connection with two failed prosecutions. The city is not a defendant, but the commission needs outside counsel to give legal advice on matters relating to the case.
City Attorney Julie O. Bru has recused herself, citing a conflict of interest.
Among the most pressing issues the commission must take up: whether to pay for an outside attorney for Regalado, as he has requested.
The mayor has asked to have Miami defense attorney José Quiñón work on his case. But the commissioners have not discussed the matter, saying they must name their own outside attorney first.
Sarnoff had initially recused himself from taking part in the discussions, saying he could be called as a witness in the case. But he sought an opinion from his attorney, who said Sarnoff did not have a conflict.
Commissioner Francis Suarez also obtained an opinion, from the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission. Executive Director Joseph Centorino said Suarez could take part in discussions regarding Regalados outside attorney, even though he is challenging Regalado for the office of mayor.
Said Vice Chairman Willy Gort: This is getting more complicated by the day.
In other business, the commission finalized an agreement that will let DecoBike set up an automated bicycle share program in the city of Miami. DecoBike operates a similar program in Miami Beach.
Although the kiosks were initially to be placed in neighborhoods like Brickell and downtown Miami, Commissioner Frank Carollo insisted on having at least one in Little Havana.
Once again, District 3 Little Havana is being forgotten, Carollo said. All Im trying to do is connect Brickell to Little Havana, which I think is fair.
A representative from DecoBike agreed and promised to place a station there.
The program comes at no cost to the city. It will pay for itself through advertisements on the kiosks, city officials have said.
The commission also extended its contract with Miami-Dade County to use the countys waste-disposal system.
Now that the agreement is in place, the county will release $45 million in bond dollars set aside for the closure and remediation of the Virginia Key landfill.
The landfill, which has not been in use for more than three decades, is leaching dangerous chemicals into the groundwater.
The county has agreed to spearhead the clean-up effort. Once the site is decontaminated, the city will build a park.