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Palmetto Bay

Three law firms apply to work for Palmetto Bay

 

Special to the Miami Herald

The Palmetto Bay Village Council will consider applications from three law firms vying to work for the village.

One of the applicants is Figueredo & Boutsis, which currently provides legal service. The firm has represented the village since its 2002 incorporation.

“Realizing that the city attorney is not an employee, she is a contractor, and that there hasn’t been a competitive bid process for the city attorney, it would be appropriate for us to issue a request for proposals, so we can evaluate other firms in a more objective, competitive format,” Vice Mayor John DuBois told the Miami Herald on Thursday. DuBois led the initiative to direct village staff to issue the requests for proposals. “It’s something we basically owe to the taxpayers.”

DuBois’ initiative to look into the village’s legal services has a history that dates back to the days when he first stepped on the dais in late 2012. First, he tried to terminate Village Attorney Eve Boutsis. Part of his reasoning at the time was that the scope of her representation is not defined in her contract, and he also questioned her need to work so often with staff. While the rest of the council did not support his motion, a majority agreed to further discuss the village’s legal services.

Then, at a meeting in April, the Village Council voted 3-2 to direct staff to solicit applications from legal firms. DuBois also put forth that motion. His reasoning: “We have a responsibility to get a competitive process."

Mayor Shelley Stanczyk and Councilwoman Joan Lindsay dissented.

“I am still holding that position,” Stanczyk told the Herald on Thursday. “We’ve had a lot of legal business going on that our current attorney is an important asset to. … In the Palmer litigation, she provides so much continuity.”

For the past five years, Palmetto Bay has been involved in court battles with Palmer Trinity School over expansion. Recently, the Village Council approved a settlement with the school. The village still has to go through a quasi-judicial hearing to finalize the conditions of the settlement.

Boutsis declined to comment on the competition.

The other two firms that have submitted proposals to the village are Gray Robinson and Alayon & Associates.

While Figueredo & Boutsis and Gray Robinson have both submitted proposals for their services at $185 per hour for work done by principal attorneys, Alayon & Associates has submitted a proposed rate of $165 per hour.

When choosing professional advisors such as lawyers, the village does not have to select the lowest bidder as it might with a construction contract.

A village selection committee comprised of two residents who are attorneys, the village manager, the village clerk and the Planning and Zoning director has looked at the firms’ experience, references and presentations. Based on these qualifications, the selection committee will make a recommendation for one of the firms to the Village Council at a special meeting held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Village Hall, 9705 E. Hibiscus St. The council will then decide on a firm.

“We are not obligated to choose anybody,” DuBois said. “If we don’t like what we see in the request-for-proposal responses, we can decide that they are inadequate. It’s totally at our discretion.”

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