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'We need to move on': Victoria Méndez removed as Miami City Attorney

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

Victoria Méndez is no longer the City of Miami's top litigator.

Miami Commissioners voted Thursday to have Méndez step down as city attorney a full two months before her contract was set to expire.

"We need to move on," said Commissioner Miguel Gabela, who led an initial charge to remove Méndez from the post she'd held since 2013.

READ MORE: Miami Commissioners vote to keep Victoria Méndez as City Attorney for only a few more months

Commissioners originally voted in January to give Méndez a deferred termination. Her contract was renewed until June, and the City was set to seek a replacement City Attorney to take her place in the meantime.

Though Méndez was already slated to leave, Miami Commissioner Damian Pardo didn't want to wait any longer.

Pardo sponsored an item on Thursday's agenda to remove Méndez as City Attorney effective immediately and appoint Chief Deputy City Attorney John A. Greco in her stead.

On Thursday, Pardo said he does not "have confidence" in the legal information he receives from Méndez, and that her behavior at public meetings led him to call for her immediate ouster.

"To address the question of 'why now,' for the last couple of commission meetings, the city attorney has been at times insubordinate and at times disrespectful. I don't think that's conduct becoming of that position," Pardo said from the dais.

The vote to remove Méndez earlier this year came after a string of controversies including:

  • Méndez's staunch support of using taxpayer money to pay close to $2 millionin legal fees for Commissioner Joe Carollo — who was hit with a $63.5 million federal civil judgement last year.
  • Méndez's legal advice that led the city to almost lose out on $56 million in state tax funding.
  • The role of Méndez's husband and mother in the questionable real estate deals with the nonprofit Guardianship Program of Dade County, as detailed in WLRN's investigative series Unguarded from March of 2023.

Ahead of Thursday's meeting, WLRN news partner the Miami Herald reported that Méndez worked personally with a developer's lobbyist to steer $10 million meant for citywide projects towards just one city district: District 3, which is governed by Commissioner Joe Carollo. Méndez has been a vocal supporter of Carollo, who has defended her from the dais.

City Commissioner for District 4, Manolo Reyes, told the Herald he was not informed that a land deal the commission approved in February of 2020 was significantly changed so that only District 3 would benefit from the proceeds. Méndez said she was not required to inform the commissioners about changes to the contract after it was approved, and that the changes were not substantial.

'Let's get rid of distractions'

Outside the commission chambers during a lunch break, Commissioner Manolo Reyes said he believed Méndez needed to go early because there have been too many controversies that have distracted City Hall from getting real work done.

"Let's get rid of the distractions, let's work for the benefit of the people. That's why we're here," Reyes told reporters.

After a heated discussion that included arguments between Méndez, Pardo and Gabela, commissioners voted 4 to 1 to have the City Attorney step down. Commissioner Carollo dissented.

In her goodbye speech, Méndez gave deference to the city for supporting her in her career up to this point.

"I want to thank God, my family, and the city of Miami ... and especially my City Attorney family for the 20 plus years that have been allowed to me to serve this wonderful city where I was born," she said in a tearful address.

Before concluding her remarks, she took potshots at the two commissioners who have led the efforts to remove her — Gabela and Pardo — accusing them of working with people behind the scenes.

"Nothing of what the two new commissioners and their serial litigant backers have done to me and my family today and since March of 2023 with the media and bogus litigation will ever take that away from me," Méndez said, referring her to long record as city attorney.

Méndez will become eligible for her pension on April 21. If she remains in her position until then, she's projected to be paid $8,333.33 per month after she retires, according to the Miami Herald.

She will serve in an advisory role and remain on staff until June 11. Deputy City Attorney George Wysong will serve as acting City Attorney until April 22. At that point, Chief Deputy City Attorney John A. Greco will become interim city attorney until a permanent replacement is selected.

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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