For the second time this year, the Palmetto Bay council members are looking for a law firm to represent the village.
So far, no firms have applied, although the village announced the search on Nov. 14.
For now, Palmetto Bay employs John Herin Jr., of Gray Robinson, on an interim basis. He said he and his his firm will apply for the permanent job.
Herin, who charges the village $185 per hour, has been on the job for about a month.
He was hired as Doral’s attorney earlier this year, and also serves as city attorney for Marathon.
Herin replaced Eve Boutsis, of Figueredo & Boutsis. The Boutsis firm had represented Palmetto Bay since the village’s 2002 incorporation.
At a meeting in late October, the Village Council voted 3-2 to dismiss Boutsis, hire Herin in the interim, and re-issue the request for proposals.
Mayor Shelley Stanczyk and Councilwoman Joan Lindsay dissented from the vote, and both said they wanted to keep Boutsis on the job.
Stanczyk has told the Miami Herald that Boutsis has the “institutional knowledge” of the village’s laws and ongoing litigation.
The initiative to switch village attorneys was led by Vice Mayor John DuBois, who has tried to dismiss Boutsis since he first stepped on the dais in late 2012.
Throughout the process, he has given varying reasons for his motions to direct staff to solicit applications from law firms. Most recently, he said Gray Robinson is the “better firm.” Before that, he said that the position of village attorney should be put through a competitive bid process. Before that, he said that the scope of Boutsis' representation is not defined in her contract, and he also questioned why she worked so often with village staff. DuBois wanted to hire Herin on a permanent basis, but that motion failed 2-3 with only Councilman Patrick Fiore joining DuBois.
While six firms applied for the job the first time Palmetto Bay staff solicited applications, three of those forms dropped from the race. That included Weiss Serota Helfman Pastorize Cole & Boniske, which was hired by the village of Pinecrest. The firm’s contract prohibits it from representing adjacent municipalities.
Weiss Serota represents about a dozen local municipalities, including Aventura, Cutler Bay, Homestead and Key Biscayne as well as Pinecrest.
Former Miami-Dade county attorney Murray Greenberg, now with the firm of Gelber Schachter & Greenberg, told the Miami Herald that there are not many law firms in South Florida that specialize in municipal law. Many municipalities, he said, choose to hire an in-house attorney.
Greenberg served on the selection committee, comprised of Palmetto Bay residents and staff, that reviewed and ranked the three applicants last time Palmetto Bay solicited applications. The selection committee ranked the applicants as follows: 1. Figueredo & Boutsis. 2. Gray Robinson. 3. Alayon & Associates.
Interested law firms should respond to the request for proposals by 3 p.m. on Dec. 20. For more information on how to apply, visit www.palmettobay-fl.gov/content/procurement-notices.
The Village Council is expected to vote on whom to hire at a meeting in January.
The village attorney is one of three staff positions appointed directly by the council. The other two are the village clerk and the village manager.