Judge dismisses lawsuit against Doral

A Miami-Dade judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the city of Doral that alleged the city did not follow its own laws when firing its previous city attorney.

In March, local businessman Jose Garcia filed suit asking for an injunction in Miami-Dade Circuit Court to stop the Doral City Council from approving a new city attorney, Daniel Espino, of Weiss, Serota, Helfman, Pastoriza, Cole and Boniske, after unexpectedly firing previous city attorney John Herin, of Gray Robinson.

The suit accused the city of breaking its own laws after Mayor Luigi Boria suddenly moved to fire Herin at a council meeting. Herin’s dismissal was not included on the meeting agenda, which according to the suit, violates protocol outlined in the city code for adding items to the agenda before the meeting. The code says a majority of the council must approve additions to the agenda. Garcia’s suit also alleged that the city held a flawed solicitation process before Boria made his nomination.

Espino notified the City Council of the ruling last week.

“I am pleased to report that we were successful in having that action dismissed with prejudice,” he wrote in an email. Dismissal with prejudice means the case can’t be brought to court again.

According to the email, Judge Daryl Trawick ruled the City Council acted appropriately during the process because the city charter gives the council the authority to remove and replace the city attorney and the city code does not obligate the council to competitively bid the city attorney job. In addition, he said the council doesn’t have to give notice of this type of decision.

Garcia filed the suit amid a controversy over how the city was handling its search for a new attorney. After Councilwoman Sandra Ruiz unexpectedly questioned Herin’s performance during a January council meeting and proposed his dismissal, a majority of the council voted to the put his job out to bid and try to work any issues out with him.

In February, the city advertised for a new city attorney that turned out to be flawed because it did not include a necessary notice for a “cone of silence.” This rule prohibits oral communication between potential vendors or contractors and City Council members or staff from the time the bid is advertised until a written recommendation is made. In Doral, the mayor alone has the authority to nominate a city attorney.

By early March, Boria had five applicants, but he told the Miami Herald he no longer saw a need for a change and did not plan on making a nomination.

In the kind of twist that’s become typical in Doral politics, Boria changed his mind again a week later and successfully moved to fire him, with Ruiz and Vice Mayor Christi Fraga voting with him.

On Monday, Garcia said he remained displeased with the council’s behavior, and even if the fight does not continue in court, he may run for office in this year’s upcoming election. He hinted he may join the race for Seat 2, where incumbent Bettina Rodríguez-Aguilera and former councilman Pete Cabrera are running.

“We got to go with what the judge decided on this,” he said. “I’m probably going to run. That might be the route.”