No attorney yet for Miami mayor in lawsuit against commissioner

Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado thought he would have an attorney by now. He thought wrong.

Last month, Regalado asked the City Commission to hire Miami attorney José Quiñón to defend him in a corruption lawsuit filed by Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones. The mayor needs outside counsel because City Attorney Julie O. Bru has said she has a conflict of interest.

But commissioners didn’t want to make a decision until they found an outside attorney to represent the board as a whole.

At a meeting Thursday, Chairman Marc Sarnoff recommended hiring Richard Davis, a New York attorney with experience in corporate governance. Davis was willing to cut his usual hourly rate from $900 to $750.

But Commissioner Francis Suarez said he couldn’t support a rate “anywhere near that high.” Agreed Commissioner Frank Carollo: “I have residents in my district who make less than $700 a month.”

He wondered any former judges or retired municipal attorneys would take the case. Almost simultaneously, former County Court Judge Ana Maria Pando — also an ex-assistant city attorney — popped up from the audience and offered her services for $350 an hour.

Sarnoff declared he would not sacrifice quality for cost and recused himself from the matter. Spence-Jones had already done the same — after submitting a scathing letter from her attorneys for the record.

Suarez must now find a commission attorney. He plans to update his remaining two colleagues in two weeks.

“We thought we would be able to get to work by now,” Quiñón said, noting that while the mayor has not yet been served, there is prep work to be done. “This puts us behind.”