Founder & Editor
On January 5th, Coral Gables City Attorney Miriam Soler Ramos sent a letter to the Commission announcing her resignation as she is set to take on a new role at one of the City’s main outside counsel, Holland and Knight.
At the January 10th City Commission meeting, Soler Ramos’ resignation was announced to residents.
The Commission and staff had been working for days on her farewell, presenting a lengthy tribute video, a Key to the City, Proclamation and even an elaborate miniature replica of City Hall. The tributes went on for over an hour.
Residents Kept In The Dark
Residents, however, had been kept in the dark.
In fact, the item on her farewell and the appointment of her replacement was not on the printed copies of the agendas of those present at City Hall for the meeting. The item was not placed on the agenda until 8:53AM, 7 minutes prior to the meeting starting.
Mayor Vince Lago read into the record a memo he sent to fellow Commissioners on Monday on the issue. Lago’s memo promoted the appointment of Deputy City Attorney Cristina M. Suarez to the position.
The agenda item reflected the intent to appoint Suarez to the position without Commission discussion, “Farewell to City Attorney Miriam Soler Ramos and appointment of Deputy City Attorney Cristina M. Suarez to the post of City Attorney.”
The item was immediately voted on and no public comment was taken.
The question being asked by some is, if the Commission is the one who as-a-whole appoints the City Attorney, why would the Mayor have the authority to negotiate a contract with an individual without a Commission vote.
The Charter authorizes the Mayor in Sec. 2-28(b)(3) of the City Code, “To represent the city commission in negotiations, meetings, and functions.” However, does that mean negotiating a contract with an individual who has not been voted on by the Commission?
Unless, Lago already knew the vote would confirm her. Something which would be difficult to confirm with the restrictions placed on members of the Commission by the State of Florida’s Sunshine Law, which prohibits communication outside of properly noticed meetings.
Additionally, instead of listing the item as appointment of a new City Attorney, the item clearly implies the expectation that the rest of the Commission would vote for Suarez, based on Lago’s memo alone.
No Transparency Or Resident Participation
As for residents, no opportunity for public comment or input was allowed. Without notice, many never found out this vote on the legal future of the City would even be taking place.
Suarez may well earn the support of residents, but the item being placed on the agenda 7 minutes prior to the start of the meeting, without notice to residents, demonstrates a clear intent to prevent transparency by the Mayor.
The Un-Elected Commissioner Votes
In addition, at the December 13th Commission meeting, residents were assured by Commissioner Rhonda Anderson that Jim Cason would not be taking any important votes as there would not be enough time for major issues to come before the Commission.
Yet, at his first meeting, the appointment of one of three Charter Officers was Cason’s second vote. In this case, the un-elected Commissioner has now voted on the appointment of a new City Attorney which will be a long-term decision on behalf of residents who had advocated against Cason being appointed to begin with.
Soler Ramos Takes Jab At Residents
In her parting words, Soler Ramos seemingly took a jab at residents, urging staff to “drown out the external noise.” She also took time to praise the Commission, City Manager and staff for their work and support throughout her time in the City.
Soler Ramos’ last day is expected to be January 20th.