Close to three years ago, at a commission meeting, I along with several other concerned citizens spoke out against the firing of the former chief of police. The clearly politically motivated and contrived excuse was so flawed, that even a child could see it had no legal merit. Firing a chief of police over a year after he filled in for an absent city manager and declaring that he violated his five year contract was beyond malpractice. The word malfeasance comes to mind.
Last week’s decisive loss by South Miami’s attorney, Mr. Thomas Pepe to former Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro in the long, purposely strung out lawsuit, highlighted more than the loss of a million of taxpayer dollars. The judge awarded Mr. Orlando Martinez de Castro $435,000 plus 4.75% compounded interest per year until the date of payment which also applies to his attorney fees. The city has already wasted approximately $250,000 on payments to Mr. Pepe, expert witnesses, expenses on a forensic search of the former chief’s e-mails and computer, a mistrial caused by Pepe, along with loss of employee productivity.
In addition, there is a glaring line item in the city’s ever increasing bill. The former chief’s attorney’s fees which according to State Statute (FS448.08) can be up to three times the standard hourly rate of $350/hr. Due to Mr. Pepe’s marching orders to string the case along, a conservative estimate for Mr. Martinez de Castro’s attorney’s bill along with court fees and expert witnesses will be approximately $500,000.
Once again, even a child can see that an ill fated appeal will result in interest on attorney’s fees plus further interest on the former chief’s contract award in addition to added attorney fees. Can South Miami taxpayers spare 2 million dollars? Thank God the City doesn’t have to pick up the bill for the slander lawsuits filed against Mayor Stoddard…. I am sure he will be quick to settle those lawsuits when the time comes.
Stoddard, who led the charge to not only hire Orlando Martinez de Castro but also championed his unprecedented 5 year contract, abruptly changed his mind and led the charge to fire him. In order to do so he needed to fire the city manager first. What led to the former Chief’s fall from grace which forced him to sue the city? Look no further than the police report detailing the “home invasion” of Stoddard’s house. In the report you will find that the man behind the green mask was exposed (no pun intended).
Losing lawsuits has been the norm in South Miami. Mr. Pepe, who was hired in violation of our city charter, did not have municipal experience as required by our charter. Evidence of this is visible by simply looking across the street from City Hall. The cramped and ugly “affordable” senior building, which will not pay any taxes, was the direct result of a lawsuit which, the city had to settle or lose.
Now, the Stoddard led commission wants to “make a deal” in a developer led movement to sell city hall… can anyone guess who will lose?
“Oh, what a tangle web we weave when we first practice to deceive.”
-Sir Walter Scott