Less than a month after forming a search committee to find a new city attorney, the North Miami Beach City Council members voted 5-1 Tuesday night to put the committee on hold and offer the job to the current city attorney of Miami Beach.
Jose Smith was part of the search committee, but resigned March 19 after having attended one meeting to discuss the potential candidates. According to Rose Amberson, North Miami Beach human resources director, Smith never saw any applications.
“There is no conflict here. Mr. Smith spoke to council members about his intention only after he resigned from the committee,” Amberson said. “It’s a charter position and that means he can speak directly to the council members. It doesn’t violate sunshine laws."
In late February, the council abruptly fired city attorney Darcee Siegel. She has served as city attorney since 2008 and had served as an assistant city attorney for nearly 17 years before that.
Councilman Frantz Pierre voted against Tuesday’s motion and strongly disagreed with the process.
“It’s obvious that people were talking behind the scenes,” Pierre said. “We should follow the process for transparency’s sake. It doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Under state law, council members are prohibited from discussing city business outside public meetings.
Council members Anthony DeFillipo, Marlen Martel, Beth Spiegel, Barbara Kramer and Mayor George Vallejo voted to put the current search committee on hold and appointed Amberson to negotiate with Smith. Councilwoman Phyllis Smith was absent.