[dropcap]S[/dropcap]outh Miami was once again dealt a legal and financial blow as a result of the firing of Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro in August of 2013.
This case, which has been slowly moving forward may have reached a partial conclusion with the 11th Circuit Court Judge ruling (CASE NO. 13-9342 CA15) that the city, which fired Martinez under the pretense that he violated his contract by serving as Acting City Manager, did not have merit nor legal standing. Several area attorneys who are familiar with the case, but not working on it, think that the city may have to pay Martinez and his attorney $300,000 or more make it go away.
The former Chief’s attorney, Paul Totten stated after the ruling, “We are extremely pleased of the judge’s recent ruling granting our motion for summary judgment. This is a vindication of our clients position and confirmed that of SM acted illegally and in violation of its own charter in passing the resolution that effectively terminated Orlando without cause a year and half ago.”
According to the court ruling “The State Constitution, which the city attorney, Mr. Thomas Pepe erroneously cited to fire Martinez de Castro, has to do with dual office holders as it pertains to elected officials…” Mere government employment, though, does not amount to holding office (pg. 6 of ruling). In addition, according to the city charter, it was incumbent upon the commission to vote via resolution as to who fills in for an absent City Manager, which they failed to do. He further stated the City’s omission of city charter article VI, section 6 was, disingenuous (pg. 5 of ruling) since both parties agreed that the role of the police chief was a directorship.
The judge granted a, “partial ruling” with regards to attorney’s fees and the contract since an exact amount would have to be determined, by a mediator which will also be at the city’s expense.
Stoddard, who had attempted to force the previous City Manager, Hector Mirabile to fire the former chief, was refused. Mirabile stated: The Chief has done an excellent job and to fire him without grounds will result in an enormous financial loss for the city. Stoddard then tried a different tactic by submitting an ethics complaint against Martinez de Castro in the hopes that the ruling would provide a valid reason to terminate his employment.
The Ethics Commission did not find Martinez de Castro guilty of ethical violations which seems to have led Stoddard and two commissioners to fire the City Manager, in order to hire one that would do their bidding. The firing of Mirabile resulted in an additional expense since the city paid Mr. Mirabile a six month “consulting fee”, plus of course the salary of his replacement, Stephen Alexander as the new manager.
A few days ago the former mayor Feliu stated:
The former chief’s victory over our city comes as no surprise to me. Even a child could see that the resolution, which led to the Chief departure had no legal merit what so ever. This will cost the taxpayers dearly for years to come.