Miami Beach

Miami Beach

Miami Beach may soon have new attorney

As Miami Beach City Attorney Jose Smith mulls an offer to leave for North Miami Beach, a possible successor to lead Miami Beach’s legal department has emerged.

Mayor Philip Levine told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that he wants to appoint a new city attorney whenever Smith leaves — whether it’s for a new job or because his contract has expired. Levine said said he’d ask commissioners at their April 9th meeting to name Chief Deputy City Attorney Raul Aguila to take over the city’s legal department.

“I personally think Raul is terrific. He has tremendous institutional knowledge. He has displayed a great sense of fairness,” Levine said. “I think Raul should be the next city attorney.”

Aguila has worked with the Miami Beach city attorney’s office since 1993, according to his city bio. He did not return requests for comment Wednesday.

The North Miami Beach City Council on Tuesday voted to offer Smith the position of city attorney. The city has been without a lead lawyer since February, when the council abruptly fired its longtime attorney, Darcee Siegel.

Smith has another year left on his contract with Miami Beach, he said. When commissioners renewed it in 2013, he said he was planning to retire at the end of his latest term. Smith’s total compensation package is currently worth about $324,000. He has worked for Miami Beach since 2006.

“I think he was ready to retire. Just as we have a new commission, I think it might be time for new ideas,” said Miami Beach Commissioner Joy Malakoff.

Smith’s departure would be the latest in a succession of high-profile changes in Miami Beach’s city government after the November election, when voters booted incumbents out of office following a series of public corruption arrests at city hall.

Police Chief Raymond Martinez last month announced his early retirement — shortly after his former deputy chief left to lead the Bal Harbour police force. Fire Chief Virgil Fernandez has been on the job since February. Several city department heads are also new — appointed by City Manager Jimmy Morales, who himself will soon be celebrating one year on the job.

Smith said Wednesday that he’s still making a decision.

North Miami Beach Councilwoman Barbara Kramer said at Tuesday’s meeting that Smith had indicated to her that he would be willing to join the city at the previous attorney’s salary of $188,000.

He also agreed not to pull a pension and would decline the city’s insurance after November, when he turns 65, Smith said.

Miami Herald contributor Patricia Sagastume contributed to this report.

Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.

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