North Miami’s city council voted to terminate city attorney Regine Monestime’s month-to-month contract during their June 23 council meeting.
The item, introduced by Mayor Smith Joseph and not initially on the agenda, passed 4-1 — Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime voted no. The city attorney’s contract was discussed last December as it was set to automatically renew March 11. The council voted at that meeting to remove an automatic renewal clause and have paid her on a month-to-month basis since.
Monestime will remained in the position until the end of June, and then deputy city attorney Roland Galdos takes over on an interim basis until the city selects a new attorney or firm. The outgoing attorney said she was proud of the work she did in the city, from updating and revising the city’s charter to dealing with the Museum of Contemporary Art lawsuit last year and working on the Biscayne Landing (now SoLeMia) deal.
“It’s been really a pleasure for me to work in this capacity for the past three years,” Monestime said at the meeting.
The city hired Monestime in 2012 after the resignation of then-city attorney Lynn Whitfield for an annual salary of $191,000. She previously served as Florida City’s city attorney and worked in the Miami attorney’s office’s litigation division. The City Council agreed to let her remain in the position until the end of June to transfer files and set up for Galdos to take over.
Some residents at Tuesday’s meeting said the process seemed rushed. Joseph introduced the discussion near the end of the agenda and about four hours into the meeting. The motion to terminate the contract was made by Councilman Scott Galvin.
“I think it could’ve been handled differently,” resident Roseline Philippe said at the meeting. “We have to start looking at how we operate.”
The Haitian Lawyers Association released a statement Monday and said they were dismayed by the council’s decision.
“While it is entirely within the purview of the council to hire or fire the city attorney, there is a way to terminate someone in a professional manner, and that was not it,” the statement said. “Ms. Monestime has been the consummate professional and did not deserve to be treated that way. HLA we will be monitoring how the Council will replace her.”
Council members said the decision wasn’t personal and had to be done publicly and voted on by the council.
“Moving forward in a different direction is not easy,” Vice Mayor Carol Keys said. “It will never be pretty, because the city attorney is only appointed by the council so it’s going to be a council decision.”