PB: Test the Market for Village Attorney Services & Release the Transcripts

by SDM

Time to Test the Market for Legal Services

SDM has been generally supportive of Village Attorney Eve Boutsis, though March, 2013 was an exception.

The Village Council will take up an item by Vice Mayor John Dubois that will put the village attorney’s contract out for public bid and SDM urges all the members of the council to support it.

Ms. Boutsis’ firm has been the only village attorney for Palmetto Bay since its founding 10 years ago. Stability is a good thing and certainly Ms. Boutsis knows the village from a legal perspective better than almost anyone.

But should the position of village attorney be a lifetime appointment without any competitive selection? SDM says absolutely not.

One can make several arguments favoring Ms. Boutsis, though her performance regarding the vote on the parks master plan was perhaps the lowest point in her Palmetto Bay career. She misstated Robert’s Rules of Order so badly that SDM argues the matter is permanently screwed up. She compounded her mistake just a couple of weeks later when she stated that Councilman Fiore could place the matter on the next village council agenda for reconsideration when he clearly could not under the rules of procedure.

SDM would understand if the council terminated her contract just based on last month’s performance, but doing so does not serve the village’s interest. Mr. Dubois’ approach is the correct one. Put the contract out to public bid and measure Ms. Boutsis against the other firms who may wish to offer their services to us.

And, don’t listen to those who say that changing lawyers at this point will somehow permanently damage the village with regard to ongoing litigation. The fact is that lawyers are changed all the time in the real world and the village will do just fine if new counsel is brought on board.

Mr. Dubois’ Other Good Idea: Release the Transcripts

At the  last COW meeting, a majority of the council seemed content to hide behind a misreading of state law with respect to releasing transcripts of the village’s Palmer Trinity shade sessions. Mr. Dubois writes in his memo to the council:

MAJOR POINTS TO BE COVERED: The Florida Sunshine Laws provide for open meetings of governmental bodies when two or more members of the governing board are to be present at a meeting. There is an exemption in the law that provides procedures for conducting private meetings (commonly known as “shade sessions”) between a governmental entity and its attorney to discuss pending litigation. The law is clear that when the litigation is concluded, the transcripts of all shade sessions relating to such litigation shall become part of the public record.

REASON: The transcripts of all shade sessions relating to the litigation related to Palmer Trinity that was heard by the 3rd District Court of Appeals must be disclosed in accordance with State law, as that litigation is concluded.

SDM discussed this issue in detail in PB: Shady Village Council Fights Transparency and could not agree more with the Vice Mayor on this obvious requirement of the law.

SDM Says: Ms. Boutsis should come down clearly and strongly on the side of transparency and strict adherence to Florida law. She must opine that the Village of Palmetto Bay is under a clear legal obligation to release the transcripts as soon as practicable or risk being in violation of the law. Any other recommendation will only reinforce the opinion – of a growing number of village people – that Ms. Boutsis is doing Mayor Stanczyk’s bidding and not upholding her responsibilities to the rest of us.

SDM Wonders: Will the council continue to hide the ball from the public by hiding behind their village attorney’s questionable reading of Florida law?

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