Phil Stoddard and Ben Kuehne Will Discover The Most Dangerous Enemy is Someone With Nothing Left To Lose

Grant Miller, Publisher

Stephen Cody’s first ethics complaint against South Miami Mayor Phil Stoddard ended with a whimper instead of a bang.

Cody had complained to the Ethics Commission when Stoddard wouldn’t let him speak at a January 2018 meeting about how the Stoddard-led effort to fire Police Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro cost the City about $1.5 million between attorneys’ fees on all sides and a big wad of cash to Martinez.

Stoddard was in the midst of his final reelection campaign and didn’t want an outsider raising embarrassing questions about is “leadership”. In July 2018, the Ethics Commission voted to find probable cause, rejecting the defense of Stoddard and his attorney, Benedict Kuehne, that Phil could rely on the opinion of City Attorney Thomas Pepe, regardless of how inept or inane it was.

Fast forward to July 2019 and the Ethics Commission granted a motion to dismiss Cody’s complaint with prejudice, now finding that Phil was entitled to rely on Pepe’s opinion, regardless of how inept or inane it was.

Having fallen backwards over the goal line, Phil and Kuehne are now doing a victory dance in the end zone. Kuehne sent out a press release accusing Cody of committing every major crime since the explosion of the Hindenburg.  And Kuehne announced that Stoddard was going after Cody for Phil’s attorneys’ fees.

Stoddard and Kuehne need to be reminded that, like the Hindenburg, gasbags have a tendency to unexpectedly explode.

There are a few obstacles in the way of Stoddard pulling even a penny from Cody’s pocket.  First, Stoddard may have a right to be reimbursed by the City for what he spent out for attorneys’ fees.  Some of that may have been covered by the City’s insurance policy or even a policy that Phil has kept at the ready to cover his other shortcomings.  If Phil’s been reimbursed, he can’t sue. That right belongs to the insurance carrier. I’m sure someone can explain “subrogation” to Ben Kuehne.

The insurance company, if it wants to, can hire a lawyer to go after Cody, but it can’t collect attorneys’ fees for trying to collect attorneys’ fees.  They might end up doubling down on dumb, wasting more money trying to collect.

Plus, the Ethics Commission’s initial finding of probable cause means the case was never frivolous. Add to that the failure of the Ethics Commission to find that the matter was frivolous, means that any attorneys’ fee claim will be rejected.

Mayor Philip Stoddard

Second, if Phil didn’t make a claim on an insurance policy, it begs the question of who has been paying Kuehne’s bills up to now. Both Cody and this newspaper have been demanding that the City turn over copies of Kuehne’s bills, only to be met by the sound of crickets.

If Kuehne never billed Stoddard, then Stoddard may have received an illegal gift which was never reported.  If Kuehne did bill the City and it has hidden the invoices, then those responsible in the City may have broken the law by hiding public records.  Municipal officials have gone to jail for far less.

I’m looking forward to the lawsuit against Cody, regardless of who files it.  When he was a young lawyer, Cody filed the Voting Rights Act lawsuits that changed the County Commission and School Board to single member districts.  With practically no financial support, Cody took apart two governments on his own and ended a lot of political careers, including Steve Clark’s, Bev Philips’, Clara Oesterle’s, and Jim Redford’s.

Cody doesn’t practice law anymore for a number of reasons, including a loss of a significant portion of his vision. But he remembers how to do it all.

Cody recently lost Rita, his wife of almost 39 years, who died from complications following open-heart surgery.  She was his anchor, the one who kept him focused. She encouraged him to pursue the case against Stoddard. There’s nothing to hold Cody back now.

If the City or Stoddard is dumb enough to sue, I’ll be attending every deposition that Cody schedules. He’ll no doubt put Stoddard under oath. I can see him noticing the depos of City Manager Steve Alexander, Pepe, and the City Commissioners: Walter Harris, Josh Liebman, and Bob Welsh.  Since the case revolves around Ben Kuehne’s bills, I’m sure Cody will be taking Ben’s depo, too.

If Stoddard files a lawsuit, the questioning of Cody will be severely limited if permitted at all, while Cody will be free to examine all of the skeleton’s in Ben’s closet (and the stuff hiding in Phil’s closet, too).  And because Kuehne and his bills will be front and center in a new case, Ben can’t be Stoddard’s attorney.

In response to one of my columns, Stoddard wrote that I was missing the real story, the story of who was secretly paying Cody to pursue the Ethics Commission complaint against him. Cody did this all on his own and he answered that Phil was no more important than “a pimple on the ass of flea.”

The late Murray Greenberg, the former County Attorney who faced off against Cody in the Miami-Dade Voting Rights Act lawsuit, was famous for publicly pondering about how dangerous Cody could be. After all, Greenberg reasoned, Cody typed his own pleadings.

Cody turned out to be very dangerous, indeed.  He had nothing to lose then. Newly widowed, he has nothing to lose now.

Go ahead, Phil, Kuehne, Pepe, and you South Miami Commissioners. File a lawsuit against Cody. I beg you. I’ll bring the marshmallows because you’re the ones who are going to get roasted.

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  1. My sympathy and condolences go out to Mr. Cody on the loss of his beloved wife.
    Grant Miller, your article is brilliant!

  2. I remember that there was a special meeting called by the City Manager. I was told by a Commissioner that the purpose of the meeting was for the City Manager to announce to the Commission that Stoddard wanted the City to pay his legal bills even though the Commission had voted against it. It was a very brief meeting with no remarks from the Commission, no legal opinion from Mr.Pepe, and no vote from the Commission. I found it very strange that the prior vote of the Commission was not evaluated for legal standing, simply cast aside by the C.M., and his pronouncement was accepted without a question by our electeds. The $75,000 deductible would be paid by the tax payers of this city. I had also made a request for public information regarding the legal expenses, and was told that there were none at the time. I wanted to see the bills. As a citizen,a taxpayer, and resident of South Miami, I know that we have a right to this information which is being withheld. A Commissioner should be asking these questions from the dais at a regular Commission meeting, not a special meeting which is listed with very short notice on the city website. Why doesn’t even one Commissioner have the spine to ask the appropriate questions for the public record so that all of us will know the truth? How are these legal expenses being paid? From which line item of the budget? How much? How much is Mr.Kuhne billing per hour? Why is this information hidden from us? There should be no more stonewalling by Mr.Pepe or anyone else in City Hall. Our Commission is more concerned with “collegiality” and cronyism than doing their job as our elected representatives!!! All who are withholding information from us should be subject to legal consequences. It is time for full disclosure!

  3. As for the $1.5 million in legal expenses related to the illegal firing of Orlando Martinez de Castro, Stoddard commented on that at a recent Commission meeting. To paraphrase what I heard, he stated that it was worth the money,since the crime rate is now so low as compared to the high crime rate under Chief de Castro. Stoddard asked a rhetorical question which was, wasn’t it worth it to protect the residents from crime?. If anyone has the tenacity to retrieve the exact words, please do so. My issue with his message is with the philosophy that any means is acceptable to achieve a given end result. In my opinion, the means does not always justify the end, and the illegal firing of de Castro was an example of that truism. When any means is accepted to achieve a given end result,that is clearly evidential of lack of moral compass and lack of concern for consequences. It can also be the result of arrogance, poor judgement and a huge ego. The mayor and cronies acted in a reckless and feckless manner. Their complaints about de Castro should have been handled in a legal and proper manner, just as us residents must deal with our complaints. The City Manager at that time, Dr. Hector Mirable, a man of great personal and professional integrity, and a decorated military veteran, a man of honor, refused to have anything to do with the firing,knowing that it was wrongful, and was replaced by the C.M. we have now,as a result of abiding by his good conscience. That $1.5 million could have been put to a more constructive use.


    “Thomas called that move illegal, with support from the city’s corporation counsel, Lawrence Porcari — who himself has been indicted for allegedly steering $365,000 from the Water Board to pay Thomas’ criminal defense team.”

    Hey, isn’t that legal defense team Ben Kuehne and Mike Pizzi? What is it with Kuehne doing all sorts of odd stuff in the payment of his fees?

    Also that plaque is special-“Contributions anonymous – unlimited” really trustworthy folks. And they spelled Ben’s name wrong.

    I think you guys should look into Mount Vernon as part of your discovery-just sayin.

  5. Have followed Steve Cody’s career for a while and totally respect his legal brilliance and tenacity to pursue what he considers to be right. Mr. Cody recently spoke at a Village of Palmetto Bay Council Meeting (concerning the further destruction of the original goal and promise to incorporate of “protection of our single family lifestyle”) and in my opinion his comments were right on. Palmetto Bay has possibly committed violations of it’s Village Charter and of it’s own Ordinances, and for the benefit of Village residents, suggest Mr. Cody get involved to right this floundering city.

  6. An Ethics Commission, without ethics. That sums it up for Miami-Dade County government.
    Like O.J., Stoddard simply got away with it. Shame on him. Kudos to Cody.

  7. Thanks to all of you gentlemen for your due diligence and supportive remarks. Dade County is a hotbed of corruption. We have no recourse with the County for wrongdoings in South Miami. It’s a farce how Ethics sends a representative to our City Hall to give workshops with warnings to board members (which I was), and the Commission. Google 2 separate documents if you would like to know a lot about Dade corruption during a particular time frame. “Dade ain’t Disney” and .Both are great reads and you will recognize names of players who are still around. Another great read is a tell all by former mayor of South Beach, Alex Douad. Look at Jeffrey Epstein sitting his ass in a tiny prison cell, subject to the same treatment as those who don’t have money. So far he has not been able to buy his way out of the justice system…And remember the Ponzi schemer. Justice will also come to South Miami and others when they least expect it, from an unexpected source.

  8. I have been quoting Sir Walter Scott for the past 9 plus years due to the fact that given the city’s unprecedented rise in legal fees and skyrocketing insurance premiums, it is entirely relevant….
    “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”
    Sadly, we South Miami taxpayers have been picking up the tab.

  9. Mr Cody, sorry for your loss.
    Mr Grant is one of the reasons that Mr Cody doesn’t practice law due to his license being suspended by the State Supreme Court? If so why did you not write that in your article? It may call into question any credibility from the people on the other side of the debate.

  10. Jay,The status of Mr. Cody’s professional license to practice law is irrelevant to his ethics complaint. I was sitting two seats behind the podium when he spoke and I witnessed exactly what transpired. Did you? As far as I’m concerned the possible judgement of anyone’s credibility based on the status of Mr. Cody’s professional license is a red herring. The only thing that matters to me is that he was denied his right to speak as an individual citizen when he expressed his desire and intention to do so.

  11. Who cares about the license. We are learning to master distractions almost as well as the man in the White House. For Pete’s sakes, as the article details them, there are many questions in this whole issue that beg for answers and clarifications. There are many but many individuals Making money off the city and yet costing us lots of money. Great article


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