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Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez demoted amid controversy and legal scrutiny

Long-serving attorney Victoria Méndez faces allegations and criticism over performance

Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez's 20-year tenure at City Hall came to a tumultuous end on Thursday after the City Commission voted to demote her. The move follows a period of mounting controversy and criticism surrounding her performance.

In a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Joe Carollo dissenting, the commission relegated Méndez to a transitional role and appointed her chief deputy, John A. Greco, as interim city attorney. This comes as a selection committee continues its search for the next top legal officer for the city.

Loss of confidence and accusations of insubordination for Victoria Méndez

The vote to demote Méndez stemmed from concerns about her conduct and professionalism. Commissioner Damian Pardo, who spearheaded the move, stated that Méndez had exhibited "insubordinate and disrespectful" behavior at recent commission meetings.

This demotion marks a significant departure from earlier plans. Before Thursday's vote, Méndez was expected to remain City Attorney until June. However, calls for her resignation or removal grew louder, leading commissioners to offer her a five-month extension in January.

Despite the demotion, Méndez will remain on staff in the city's legal department, tasked with assisting the transition for the incoming City Attorney. Following the vote, Méndez delivered an emotional farewell speech, expressing gratitude to her family, colleagues, and the city of Miami.

New Source: Miami Herald

However, the farewell wasn't without its barbs. Méndez aimed at Commissioner Miguel Angel Gabela, who had been embroiled in a legal battle with the city over residency requirements. In that case, Méndez defended the city's decision to appeal a court ruling in favor of Gabela's candidacy.

Gabela, however, expressed a lack of trust in Méndez, stating, "Every time we ask you a question, I don't trust you." This sentiment reflected the broader concerns that led to her demotion.


Fast-tracked search for a replacement and legal woes

Commissioners have wasted no time in seeking Méndez's replacement. The City's human resources department has been instructed to propose a candidate by April 19th, with a potential vote for the new permanent City Attorney on April 25th.

Commissioner Carollo, the sole dissenter in the demotion vote, questioned the feasibility of this timeline, expressing concerns about finding a qualified candidate within such a short timeframe.

In her speech, Méndez highlighted her office's accomplishments, including legal battles with Florida Power & Light, ensuring water quality, and saving millions in potential litigation costs.

However, her address also included pointed criticism of Gabela and Pardo, elected on anti-corruption platforms. This, along with references to ongoing lawsuits against herself and Carollo, hinted at lingering animosity.

Despite the demotion, Méndez is eligible to retire this month and receive a pension. Her projected monthly benefit is capped at $8,333, translating to roughly $100,000 annually. However, it's unclear if the demotion impacts her pension eligibility.

It's important to note that Victoria Méndez's departure from the City Attorney role doesn't remove her from legal scrutiny. She faces ongoing allegations of using her position to coordinate a house-flipping scheme with her husband. These claims are being litigated in circuit court, while the Florida Bar has also opened an inquiry.

Additionally, Méndez's legal guidance has come under fire. City Manager Art Noriega revealed that based on her advice, the commission passed a tax rate in September with only four commissioners present, weeks after a former commissioner's removal on corruption charges. State regulators subsequently deemed the vote invalid, forcing an emergency meeting to re-pass the measure in December.

Miami's political landscape continues to evolve, with significant changes at the top of the city's legal department. To stay abreast of these developments and other local news, sign up for Calle Ocho News' free newsletter and receive daily updates straight to your inbox.

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