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Miami commissioner moves to terminate City Attorney Victoria Méndez

Miami city attorney Victoria Méndez
Roberto Koltun
El Nuevo Herald
Miami city attorney Victoria Méndez

Controversial Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez may be forced out of her top level job as early as next week.

Newly elected Miami Commissioner Miguel Gabela has sponsored a resolution to terminate Méndez, effective immediately. The resolution has been placed on the commission's Dec. 14 agenda.

Méndez has come under fire recently amid a number of scandals and lawsuits aimed at the city. Among them: a recent mistake that made Miami's city budget invalid and a $63.5 million civil verdict against Commissioner Joe Carollo.

Gabela previously told WLRN that the city's legal troubles are some of his main gripes with the City Attorney.

"The city of Miami has a lot of lawsuits at this time. It's a maze of lawsuits.  And it's not entirely all her fault, but it's partly her fault, in my opinion, because she did not advise the commissioners correctly," Gabela told WLRN last month.

At his swearing-in earlier this month, Damian Pardo, Gabela's fellow freshman commissioner, was also critical of Méndez's performance. He said he wants to clean up the negative perception people have of Miami city hall.

"We're gonna try to make sure the kinds of things that are happening, stop happening," Pardo told WLRN. "Like having a city attorney that’s being implied in family business that has allegedly disadvantaged elderly and handicapped folks in their transactions.

Pardo specifically referenced WLRN's investigative series "Unguarded."

Méndez's family and business connections were scrutinized as part of the investigation, which centered around the nonprofit Guardianship Program of Dade County and its business dealings with Mendez’s family members.

Méndez's husband and mother bought properties from the Guardianship Program and resold them at huge profits. The properties previously belonged to the elderly and mentally incapacitated.

The city attorney did not respond to a text message request for comment from WLRN.

This is not the first time that Méndez — who was first appointed as the city's top litigator in 2013 and is paid a salary of around $300,000 — was threatened with termination.

Former Commissioner Ken Russell tried to oust her in 2016 for allegedly withholding public records from him relating to a controversial real estate deal. Russell's effort died as he failed to gain support from his fellow commissioners.

But Gabela and Pardo, Méndez is likely to have at least two votes against her on the five-member dais.

Joshua Ceballos is WLRN's Local Government Accountability Reporter and a member of the investigations team. Reach Joshua Ceballos at jceballos@wlrnnews.org
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