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North Miami votes to hire new city attorney

At Tuesday’s meeting, North Miami’s council voted to hire a new city attorney and agreed to allocate a portion of SoLe Mia funds to park improvements.

The main item

After about four months of searching, North Miami has a new permanent city attorney.

The City Council voted 3-2 to hire Valria Screen to the position at the suggestion of Councilman Scott Galvin. Mayor Smith Joseph, Councilman Alix Desulme and Galvin cast the yes votes. Vice Mayor Carol Keys and Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime voted against the item.

Galvin said he wanted to hire someone that was familiar with the city and with Miami-Dade County.

“There won’t be a learning curve unlike some of the other applicants that would be moving into the area and would have to get to know the city and everyone around us,” Galvin said.

Screen, a University of Miami law school graduate, spent many years as a lobbyist and unsuccessfully challenged Audrey Edmonson for her County Commission seat in 2008. She also lost two bids to be a state representative in 1992 and 2002.

Previously she served on the county ethics, integrity and accountability task force, the board of The Children’s Trust and was development director for the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council also considered hiring the law firm Greenspoon Marder and an individual attorney, Guilene Theodore, but both motions failed.

“We are a team, we are a council, whoever we get to represent us as our legal counsel would be welcomed,” Joseph said.

The city attorney decision was delayed at the Nov. 10 meeting when the council members decided to conduct additional interviews with the semifinalists for the position.

The City Council created a search committee to narrow the field of more than 60 applicants and they chose four finalists, including Theodore and three other law firms (Austin Ramies Norris, The Brown Law Group and Gray Robinson).

The search process began in June after the city terminated its contract with former city attorney Regine Monestime. Roland Galdos has served as interim city attorney since July.

The council did not determine an official start date and staff will negotiate the details of Screen’s contract.

“I would like to welcome our new city attorney and we will do everything possible for a smooth transition,” Galdos said.

Other business

SoLe Mia money: The council agreed to designate $1.7 million of the $4.4 million the city received for the recent sale of 55 acres of the 183-acre SoLe Mia project on Biscayne Boulevard toward Cagni Park.

The money will be used for improvements and development of the park land. The council heard a presentation from the Miami Sportscenter group in September proposing a $20 million indoor sports facility on the site, next to Arch Creek Elementary and North Miami Middle, north of Northeast 135th Street between Northeast Ninth and Seventh avenues. The council took no action after that presentation and no plans for the facility have been finalized.

City budget staff has also prepared a plan for the rest of the funds which includes keeping $1.4 million in reserves, $900,000 to citywide capital projects and $400,000 for Rucks Park improvements. Discussion of the plan will come at a future meeting.

The next meeting

When: 7 p.m. Dec. 8

Where: North Miami City Hall, 776 NE 125th St., North Miami

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3

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