North Miami - NMB

North Miami fired its attorney. Now it has to pay her.

North Miami City Hall
North Miami City Hall

Nearly two years after she was fired, North Miami will have to pay former city attorney Regine Monestime more than $100,000 to settle a lawsuit.

Monestime’s contract was terminated in June 2015, and she filed a lawsuit in September 2016 alleging a breach of contract by the city. The City Council approved the settlement Tuesday night in a 3-1 vote, agreeing to pay Monestime her accrued sick leave and three months pay.

Vice Mayor Scott Galvin voted against the item, and Mayor Smith Joseph was absent. City staff did not have the exact amount of the settlement but estimated it at $120,000.

“Ms. Monestime doesn’t deserve a dollar more from this city than she has already earned,” Galvin said before voting against the item. “She has repeatedly given bad advice to this city that should not be rewarded with any type of settlement.”

In her lawsuit, Monestime argued that she was fired without cause and was not given the required three months notice.

Her contract was set to expire in March 2015. When the City Council addressed the contract at a December 2014 meeting, members voted to remove an automatic renewal clause and planned to negotiate her contract renewal. In her complaint, Monestime said that never happened.

“The purported deletion of the automatic renewal provision was not in writing,” the complaint read. “The city did not make a good faith effort to renegotiate the terms of the contract.”

When she was fired at the June 2015 council meeting, the item was not on the agenda and was not advertised to the public.

About nine months later the city hired Jeff Cazeau as city attorney. His selection came after a divisive process in which one attorney, Valria Screen, was offered the position in November 2015 but the City Council then chose to restart the entire process.

Monestime was initially hired in 2012 at an annual salary of $191,000. She had previously served as city attorney in Florida City.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3