Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has joined law firm Greenspoon Marder after leaving Carlton Fields last week.
Greenspoon Marder officially announced the hire Tuesday afternoon after the Miami Herald published an article about Suarez's move where the mayor did not share the name of his new firm, saying he wanted to wait for an official announcement.
In his seventh month as mayor, Suarez has left Carlton Fields — a firm he joined two months before being elected. One reason for his departure: a conflict of interest stemming from the fact that an attorney for Carlton Fields represents a company suing city hall.
Chalk's Airline, a tenant which operates the Miami Seaplane Base on city-owned land on Watson Island, is suing Miami over disputed licensing rights related to the city's desire to operate a heliport on the island. The suit represented a problem for the mayor because he serves as chairman of a municipal board that acts as a landlord on Watson Island — the semi-autonomous Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority.
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With his departure for a new firm, first reported by blogger Al Crespo, Suarez has worked for three firms in the span of less than a year. A transactional attorney, he left his "of counsel" position at GrayRobinson for Carlton Fields in September.
Suarez's last day at Carlton Fields was Friday. He is now of counsel at Greenspoon Marder working with the firm's corporate and business practice group.
Suarez wouldn't initially name his new employer because he wanted to let his new firm make a formal announcement. He added that he would have recused himself from any matter before the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority board related to the Chalk's litigation before his departure from Carlton Fields. He downplayed the conflict's role in his decision to leave the firm.
"It was a good opportunity," he said. "The current firm is not involved in litigation with the city, as was the case with my previous firm. That played a role in this, but mostly it was a great opportunity."
Even before Suarez joined Carlton Fields, the firm's attorneys represented clients suing the city. They represented residents who sued Miami over the long-stalled and lawsuit-mired Flagstone Island Gardens, a contentious planned development on Watson Island.
If Suarez gets his way, a desk at a new law firm won't be the only job change this year. He's launched a ballot petition to get a referendum of Miami's government structure on the November ballot — a change that, if approved, would make Suarez a "strong mayor." He would become the city's top administrator, an elected bureaucrat who would oversee the city's day-to-day operations.
When asked about how he would handle his law practice with a strong mayor's responsibilities if the initiative were to pass, he said he could strike a balance with the help of a chief operating officer.
"Being a strong mayor simply gives me the last say," he said. "And nobody doubts the amount of time and energy I put into being mayor."
Along with Suarez's hire, Greenspoon Marder announced the addition of trial attorney Olga Vieira to the firm.
“Francis and Olga’s practices are synergistic and offer our clients a deep breadth of experience. We are thrilled to have this dynamic team join our firm,” said Michael E. Marder, co-managing director of Greenspoon Marder.