Miami-Dade County

Miami’s police oversight board attorney resigns; will collect $143K

Charles Mays

The embattled attorney for the civilian agency that oversees Miami’s police department has resigned, and he’s leaving with a six-figure sendoff.

Charles Mays tendered his resignation Friday and signed a “release of all claims” agreement that was finalized late Monday. The city-funded agency will pay him $142,582 over the next six months, and in return Mays has agreed not to sue. He leaves following months of racially tinged rancor that split the agency’s 13-member board, pitted Mays against the agency’s executive director, and led to an inquiry into whether the long-serving attorney had usurped authority and stonewalled important cases.

Mays was cleared of wrongdoing in the fall following an exhaustive review by a committee of city commission appointees. But friction between Mays, some on the board and Executive Director Cristina Beamud remained, so Mays resigned after the agency promised to pay most the money left on his contract.

“I am going to miss you all. I wish you all the best. And it’s a wonderful feeling,” Mays said Tuesday after announcing his resignation to the agency’s board at Miami City Hall.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of the civilian agency in 2001 following a series of fatal police shootings of black men and the indictment of 13 cops accused of covering up problematic shootings by planting “throw-down” guns on suspects. Four years later, Mays, a former assistant Miami city attorney who played a role in the negotiation of the controversial $7 million fire fee settlement of the late 2000s, was hired as the agency’s general counsel.

Mays’ buyout states that he was to receive $62,582 within two weeks of his resignation, and another $80,000 by Oct. 15. — even though his contract allowed Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez to fire him without severance. Méndez, who previously said she didn’t support a buyout, told the Herald that she wouldn’t fire Mays because he was cleared by the commission-appointed review committee, and the Civilian Investigative Panel board never voted to fire him.

“Some factions of the community suggested the city should force the early termination of Mr. Mays’ contract. I didn’t think it was necessary to bring this to the panel for discussion,” said CIP board chairman Horacio Stuart Aguirre. “City Attorney Victoria Méndez has expressed firm unwillingness to examine the issue. So another solution that was mutually agreeable and satisfactory was designed and implemented.”

Aguirre, who applauded Mays on Tuesday despite butting heads with him in the past, called the buyout a “cost-cutting measure.” The agency plans to hire a law firm at about half the price of Mays’ $132,000 salary to perform legal services. The agency’s board created a selection committee Tuesday to pursue a competitive process to hire new counsel.

“Change is good from time to time. Renewals of talent and opinions are healthy,” Aguirre said. “We thank Mr. Mays for playing a key role in this cost-cutting measure and sincerely wish him well after many years of service to the city.”

His diplomatic words did not reflect the bitter battle that lay behind Mays’ buyout.

Mays oversaw the agency when it was slammed by steep budget cuts and for a time went without an executive director. But he was also accused by some investigators of white-washing cases and acting as a “gate-keeper,” allegations Mays disputed. Toward the end of his tenure he sparred with Beamud as investigators resigned or were fired and community members and board members alleged racism and reverse-racism.

Some argued that Mays was a scapegoat for larger problems.

Ultimately, the commission-appointed committee found that the CIP was hurt more by confusing bylaws, and by a lack of independence. Mays, for instance, answers to Méndez, not the panel. And when a previous panel voted to fire Beamud — twice — they learned only the city manager could do that, and he refused.

Mays said Tuesday that he had accomplished plenty in his decade with the agency. He said he won fights with former top cop John Timoney and a Miami officer who challenged the agency’s legitimacy. He noted his role in reviewing the police crackdown of protestors during the 2003 Free Trade summit in Miami.

“It has been entertaining,” he said. “It has been fun — overall.”