This article has been updated with new information on one of the candidates
By Sharon Aron Baron
On Wednesday, the Tamarac City Commission is slated to discuss and shortlist the permanent city attorney applicants.
So far, the city has received five applications, and on Wednesday, each commissioner will narrow their choices to their top three picks.
A review of these applications was tedious, and some illustrate the low level of quality the City of Tamarac attracts after making a debacle out of the process.
Here’s how we got here
When the commission opened up applications for interim city attorney, they stated in the advertisement that whoever they picked would not be considered permanent — so many high-quality firms did not apply.
Weeks later, the commission hired Hans Ottinot as an interim city attorney. However, after picking Ottinot, the commission now is considering him for permanent city attorney. This comes after an embarrassing meeting where both Commissioners Bolton and Mike Gelin spent 40 minutes demanding his title be changed from interim to permanent. That is until a permanent replacement was found.
During the March 10 meeting, Commissioner Debra Placko was confused.
“We’re going to make someone a permanent attorney until we hire a permanent attorney? That doesn’t seem logical to me.”
Of course, it wasn’t logical. This is Tamarac after all.
Because the commission voted 4-1 to change Ottinot’s title to permanent, this became grossly unfair to any lawyer considering applying as the interim city attorney — but decided against it.
After changing the rules midcourse in this process to favor one applicant, it will be difficult for the City of Tamarac to maintain any pretense of integrity in its procurement process.
Integrity is priceless.
Ottinot is only a two-person law firm consisting of himself and Pamala Ryan. He is proposing his firm plus two of counsel attorneys, one of whom also happens to be an elected official in Miami-Dade county.
State Rep Dotie Joseph’s office appears to be located at her Florida House of Representatives’ office. Conflicts of interest are swarming all over this application. If the city’s interest conflicts with the state’s on any issue, which side will Representative Joseph be loyal to? His other of counsel, Regine Monestime’s, office is located in Florida City.
Perhaps the major issue presented by Ottinot’s application is that if the commission maintains its integrity and keeps its word, Ottinot will be excluded as a contender. This would be no loss to the city after the mayor of North Miami Beach alleges in a Miami Herald article that Ottinot tricked him into signing his contract by leading the mayor to believe the city’s procurement department vetted his contract. Mayor Anthony DeFillipo was quoted as saying Ottinot “shoved a paper on my desk that did not go through a process of ratification.”
There are also articles in VotersOpinion.com concerning Ottinot and others in his circle that paint a poor picture of serious corrupt and unethical behavior.
Michael Garcia’s application is a whopping 289 pages, listing all sorts of irrelevant information such as his car insurance. The inability to be concise alone should disqualify him. But there’s more.
Michael Garcia, a one-person law firm, is proposing five other attorneys of counsel. If he needs five additional of counsel attorneys, he is admitting he alone is not qualified to be the city attorney.
Two of his proposed of counsel attorneys Christian Waugh and Gerrard Grant, with the firm Waugh Grant, are located in Orlando. Will Tamarac taxpayers foot the travel and lodging bill to get these attorneys to South Florida any time they are needed in the city?
Another one of Michael Garcia’s of counsel attorneys is former County Court Judge Julio Gonzalez. Appointed by then-Governor Jeb Bush, he served for two years. After he lost his election, he went to work for Scott Rothstein and was sued by several creditors, including American Express. Broward Beat wrote about Julio Gonzalez and exposed some of his issues.
Gonzalez was never elected as a judge; he was appointed. It’s relevant because Garcia portrays him as an experienced judge and attorney with sterling credentials. Because of his Rothstein association, being a defendant in several debt collection matters, and his curiously changing financial statements, he is hardly sterling.
Abrams has only been practicing law for seven years — hardly enough time to develop the skills and experience required to be a city attorney for a city the size of Tamarac.
A quick review of his resume reveals an almost total inability to hold a job for any length of time. He claims he was the assistant city attorney for both Deerfield Beach and Parkland when he worked for Weiss, Serota, Helfman, Cole, and Bierman for seven months. While working at Goren, Cherof, Doody & Ezrol for eight months, he also claims he was an assistant city attorney for Margate, Boynton Beach, and Pembroke Pines.
Here’s the issue: Deerfield Beach didn’t have an assistant city attorney, and just because you did some work as an associate attorney at a firm doesn’t make you an assistant city attorney. Or maybe Abrams was the assistant to the city attorney — like Dwight Schrute in The Office.
Abrams’s website shows he is the sole attorney in his firm. He is proposing one of counsel attorney — Theron Simmons, board certified in city, county, and local government law, a certification that Abrams lacks.
Austin Pamies Norris Weeks and Powell
The applicant is attorney Norman Powell of North Bay Village, who doesn’t list any city or county he has previously served or currently serves as a city attorney or assistant city attorney. After doing a search, we found he was fired from North Bay Village for incompetence and demanded a settlement payout.
From the Miami Herald: Village attorney accused of waging ‘campaign of aggressive self-interest.’ He’s fired. Mayor Brent Latham introduced the item to remove Powell, whom he accused of operating with “conscious disregard of the interests of the village” while waging a “campaign of aggressive self-interest.”
His firm is proposing three members of their firm and five of counsel attorneys located at other firms. You have to wonder why they need five of counsel attorneys and what value that is to the City of Tamarac to have them?
But here’s where it gets bizarre: applicant Michael Garcia is listed as a member of this firm. Is Garcia applying twice for this position? There is no way to tell. The applications show he submitted his own application, and then he shows up on the Austin Pamies Norris Weeks Powell website as one of the firm’s attorneys.
What the commission should be concerned about is, according to Sunbiz, the firm of Austin Pamies Norris Weeks Powell was formed only two years ago.
John Herin submitted his application for his firm with three of his partners. He is the only applicant not using any of counsel attorneys. He is also the only applicant from a large and well-established legal firm.
Herin is also the only applicant who is a Florida Bar board certified attorney in city, county, and local government law.
Slim Pickings of Applicants
Typically, when a city the size of Tamarac is seeking a new city attorney, there are several applications from qualified lawyers from the South Florida area.
Not this time.
For some reason, Tamarac has attracted mostly unqualified applicants who have provided misleading resumes. These applicants implicitly acknowledge they are unqualified thanks to fluffing their applications by adding from two to six alleged of counsel attorneys they will be relying on to perform essential services to the city.
Will the commissioners keep their word to their constituents and seek a different law firm than Hans Ottinot?
Residents will see on Wednesday if commission members make the best decisions for the city — or themselves.
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- Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and Tamarac Talk, Coral Springs Talk, and Parkland Talk. Tamarac Talk was created in 2011 to provide News for the residents of Tamarac and is the #1 News Source for Residents.