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In the latest act in the tit-for-tat over Flagstone Island Gardens, Miami Commissioners stood firm Tuesday on a decision to limit the legal representation of administrators caught in the middle of a $120 million lawsuit brought by the ousted developer when they voted unanimously to overturn a rare veto by Mayor Tomás Regalado.
Last month, Regalado blocked commissioners from striking a previous vote to hire Becker & Poliakoff to represent their city manager and his staff in the lawsuit brought by Flagstone, which has been declared in default of its contract to develop Watson Island. Commissioners replaced that approval with a new vote that explicitly restricted attorneys’ services to advice regarding the production of documents and witness testimony.
The vote, which commissioners said was needed to clarify their desired representation of their administration, came after commissioners learned Jon Polenberg, the attorney representing their city manager and his team, was drafting a motion to intervene in the case.
Commissioners — who went against their administration when they declared Flagstone in default of its city agreements — said they’d never intended for Becker & Poliakoff to actively litigate the case. But Regalado said commissioners were trying to insert themselves into the middle of the administration’s attorney-client privilege.
Polenberg has since filed the motion.
“I’m happy to report that although Flagstone and the city can’t agree on very much, they’ve certainly agreed to oppose the motion,” Polenberg said Tuesday, drawing a stern response from City Attorney Victoria Méndez.
“Never would I have thought that Becker & Poliakoff would have done a motion to intervene in a lawsuit that they have no place in being. Second of all, this commission hired counsel to assist the administration for very limited scope,” she said. “I take it as a personal affront the fact that this firm was hired to do work and it … probably give bad advice to a client.”
Regalado called the veto a “moral” decision Tuesday, noting that commissioners voted to limit the city manager’s representation after he’d left City Hall for the evening. But Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, who made the motion to overturn the veto — an act that required a super-majority of the commission — said the decision was strictly legal.
“They’re not a party of this lawsuit,” he said of the administration. “They’re part of the city. They’re on our side.”