Pricey Perks Risk Miami Attorney’s Job
Posted Dec 3, 2007 2:38 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
A $300,000 office renovation. A $1,500 lunch tab. Expense-paid staff training trips—to Hawaii and Cancun.
No, these aren't the hallmarks of a successful private-practice law office. They're some of the expenses run up by Miami City Attorney Jorge Fernandez, who envisions his municipal law office as a "world-class law firm serving a world-class city"—equipped with two high-definition big-screen plasma television sets, according to the Miami Herald. Fernandez himself costs the city over $240,000 annually before the extras are added.
Although the pricey perks are now being criticized and Fernandez' expense-account spending is being investigated by prosecutors, it isn't clear that he has done anything wrong. "His spending occurred in plain view of city leaders, as his budget is approved by commissioners and his restaurant tabs are approved by Miami's finance director," the newspaper notes. And the big-screen TVs weren't for his personal office, but for conference rooms where they are used by municipal law office groups involved in training sessions and the like.
His counterparts in other cities, however, indicate that they manage to make do with significantly lower expenses, and Fernandez' lavish spending could put his job at risk, the Herald reports.
''I have zero budget for entertaining, nor can I imagine the circumstance under which I would charge my taxpayers for entertainment expenses,'' says Orlando City Attorney Mayanne Downs.
Meanwhile, Miami Beach City Attorney Jose Smith says he ordinarily approves only travel within the state of Florida. ''You can learn a lot locally on issues of municipal law,'' he says.