With Opa-locka’s government on the brink of bankruptcy, you’d think the city manager would have her hands full.
Yet Yvette Harrell, a 42-year-old lawyer who became the city’s top administrator in May, asked the city commission’s permission on Wednesday night to work on the side for her own law firm.
To the dismay of some spectators, the commission voted 4-1 to let Harrell “engage in employment outside” her full-time, $85,000-a-year job in Opa-locka.
The only dissenting vote was cast by Commissioner Joseph Kelley, who said he found her request “challenging” under the circumstances. The city declared a “financial emergency” in June, when a state oversight board took control of Opa-locka’s budget.
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“I think having outside employment, given where we are, is not where we want to be,” said Kelley, adding that Harrell needs to commit herself full-time to the city’s financial crisis.
Fellow Commissioner John Riley suggested that maybe Harrell needed to keep her practice going to maintain her Florida Bar license. Mayor Myra Taylor and commissioners Luis Santiago and Timothy Holmes agreed.
According to the Florida Bar, however, Harrell doesn’t need to maintain her law firm to practice — only her license is necessary. She also doesn’t need the commission’s approval to work outside City Hall, though it’s customary for a lawyer in her situation to ask.
Harrell, who once worked as an assistant city attorney for Opa-locka, said her main reason for requesting the commission’s approval to work as a sole proprietor was “transparency.” She specializes in family and bankruptcy law.
Harrell, originally hired as an assistant city manager in April, scoffed at the notion that she had any free time while trying to save Opa-locka from financial ruin.
“To say I’m here full-time is an understatement,” said Harrell, who in May replaced then-City Manager David Chiverton, now convicted of a bribery offense.
“I’m here 75 hours a week.”