A week after stating he had no issues with the city attorney, Doral Mayor Luigi Boria successfully moved to fire the lawyer Wednesday morning.
The latest twist in Doral politics came at the beginning of the city’s monthly meeting, when a majority of the council voted to remove John Herin, of the law firm Gray Robinson, who was two months shy of completing a one-year contract with the city.
Boria, Vice Mayor Christi Fraga and Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz voted in favor after Boria said he’d received bad legal advice from Herin as he prepared the language for a solicitation for a new city attorney.
“I am not happy that the process was interrupted,” Boria told the council.
But after the vote, Herin said he had not advised the mayor on the solicitation because he faced a conflict of interest — given that it was his job that was being advertised, and the mayor had asked Gray Robinson to respond to the solicitation.
“I purposely stayed away from any aspect of the solicitation process because you yourself specifically asked my firm to submit a response,” he told council. “Which then would put us in a potential conflict of interest of advising you on an item which we were responding to.”
He added that he had discussed this potential conflict of interest with Joe Centorino, director of the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.
Talk of looking for a new city attorney started in January, when Ruiz first proposed firing Herin. She said he’d been slow on delivering opinions and generally unavailable. The council voted to solicit proposals as council members met individually with Herin to address any issues.
The solicitation was advertised without a notice of a “cone of silence,” a rule that prohibits oral communication between potential vendors or contractors and City Council members or staff from the time of the ad until a written recommendation is made.
Boria said this was because Herin made a mistake in advising him while he prepared the solicitation. Last week Boria canceled the solicitation, and he told the Miami Herald he had no issues with Herin and saw no need to remove him.
Councilwomen Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera and Ana Maria Rodriguez were shocked by the motion, which was made during the mayor’s report and was not included on the day’s published agenda.
“This is again being done without prior notice,” said Rodriguez.
Boria nominated the law firm Weiss Serota to provide the city’s next attorney. The firm represents about a dozen South Florida municipalities, including Homestead, Aventura and Miramar. According to a list of applicants filed with the city, former Miami Springs councilman Daniel Espino would represent Doral if Weiss Serota were approved.
The council agreed to hold a special meeting to discuss the appointment of a new city attorney at 2 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 8401 NW 53rd Terr.
Rodriguez-Aguilera derided the move to fire Herin, saying it violated the city code on introducing items not previously advertised in the meeting agenda.
“This is ridiculous,” she said. “Absolutely ridiculous.”
According to the city code, items can be added to the council’s agenda at the beginning of the meeting with a majority vote of the council.
It is unclear whether such an action, which was introduced during the mayor’s report, would have needed an advertisement. The city charter stipulates that the City Council can remove the the city attorney at any time, and it says the mayor has the power to nominate the city attorney, subject to the council’s approval.
Other items considered during the meeting include:
• Developers can expect to pay higher police impact fees. These fees are paid per residential unit and per square foot of non-residential space. Doral’s fees will go up from $101.29 to $464.62 for residential developments and from $0.147 to $0.174 for non-residential developments. The fees go toward funding the city’s growing police needs.
• The council approved a five-year master plan to curb the city’s flooding problems. The city’s public works department worked with A.D.A. Engineering to develop a list of projects estimated to cost about $7 million over five years.