At their latest meeting, the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics dismissed the complaint filed by Stephen Cody against South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard.
Cody originally brought the complaint because he twice attempted to address the Commission about Stoddard’s efforts to fire former Police Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro. Stoddard used the pretext that when Martinez agreed to act as Acting City Manager when that office became vacant, he forfeited his position as Police Chief.
The Chief’s firing and the lawsuit and appeal that followed cost the City of South Miami in excess of $1.5 million.
The Ethics Commission voted in 2018 that there was probable cause find that Stoddard violated Cody’s rights under the Citizens’ Bill of Rights and rejected Stoddard’s argument that he could have reasonably relied up City Attorney Thomas Pepe’s opinion that Cody was a lobbyist.
However, in a meeting held on July 17, 2017, the Commission held that Stoddard was permitted to rely upon the opinion of Pepe, regardless of whether it was faulty or not, and dismissed the matter with prejudice.
Benedict Kuehne, Stoddard’s attorney, has stated that Stoddard will pursue Cody for attorneys’ fees.
However, the Commission on Ethics is only allowed to award fees to a party against whom a complaint was made if it first finds that the complaint was frivolous. Since the Ethics Commission made no such finding of frivolousness, there does not appear to be a basis for an award of fees.
Stoddard is term limited out and will finish his time as City Mayor in February 2020.