South Miami

South Miami mayor didn’t violate a county rule over lobbyist issue, ethics panel rules

The Miami-Dade ethics commission ruled that South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard “relied in good faith” on the advice of the city attorney when he prevented a lobbyist from addressing the city commission in 2018.
The Miami-Dade ethics commission ruled that South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard “relied in good faith” on the advice of the city attorney when he prevented a lobbyist from addressing the city commission in 2018. Miami Herald Staff

South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard did not violate the Citizens’ Bill of Rights by refusing to allow lobbyist Stephen Cody to address the city commission on two occasions in 2018, the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust ruled Wednesday.

Cody, a suspended lawyer, children’s book author and political consultant who lives in Palmetto Bay, filed a complaint Jan. 26, 2018, after being told he had to register with the city as a lobbyist before speaking to the commission at a public meeting.

Leading up to a Jan. 16 meeting, Cody launched an anti-Stoddard campaign, criticizing him for the city’s firing and handling of ex-South Miami police chief Orlando Martinez de Castro. Stoddard at the time said he refused to allow Cody to address the commission at the meeting on the advice of City Attorney Thomas Pepe. Pepe said Cody would have to register as a lobbyist.

In July 2018, the ethics commission ruled there was probable cause that Stoddard had violated Cody’s “right to be heard” under the county’s Citizens’ Bill of Rights.

But Wednesday, the ethics commission, which held several hearings, dismissed the case with prejudice and ruled that Stoddard “relied in good faith on the advice and counsel of City Attorney Thomas Pepe,” Stoddard’s attorney Benedict Kuehne said.

“The commission should be applauded for not allowing Cody ... to bring baseless allegations against a good and highly respected elected official,” Kuehne said. “Mayor Stoddard is elated that this travesty has been completely resolved.”

Cody said Wednesday that he wasn’t surprised by the ruling since “the case has been pending for more than a year.”

“Justice delayed has become justice denied in this case,” he said.

Kuehne said Stoddard plans on seeking attorney fees from Cody.

Carli Teproff grew up in Northeast Miami-Dade and graduated from Florida International University in 2003. She became a full-time reporter for the Miami Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news.
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