Miami’s city attorney is set to leave in June. A commissioner wants her out sooner

About three months before Miami’s embattled city attorney is set to leave the city with a handsome pension, a commissioner wants to oust her immediately.

At a contentious January meeting that almost ended in a brawl, commissioners extended City Attorney Victoria Méndez’s contract until June, effectively terminating her midway through what is typically a yearlong agreement that is renewed annually. The shorter extension came against a backdrop of criticism of her performance and a lawsuit in which she’s accused of using her position to orchestrate a house-flipping scheme with her husband.

Commissioner Damian Pardo is now pushing to remove her at the April 11 city commission meeting and immediately appoint her chief deputy, John A. Greco, as the interim city attorney.

“People want change,” Pardo said in an interview Wednesday. “And it needs to start now.”

The commissioner said Méndez has exhibited “inappropriate” behavior, particularly when she referred to documentarian and filmmaker Billy Corben, a frequent critic of the city attorney, as a “vile little man” during a commission meeting earlier this year. The hearing was publicly broadcast. Corben later filed a complaint with the Florida Bar accusing Méndez of unprofessional behavior.

“We all have to sit down and conduct ourselves to a higher standard that requires us to sit there and hear things that are sometimes not pleasant and not true,” Pardo said. “It requires civility and temperance.”

Méndez did not immediately respond to the Miami Herald’s request for comment.

The city’s top legal officer since 2013, Méndez would become eligible for her pension on April 21. She would be paid $8,333.33 per month, according to a projection from the city’s pension administrator. It is unclear what could happen to her pension if the commission approves Pardo’s proposal on April 11.

The city attorney has faced mounting scrutiny in the last few years.

In the lawsuit filed in 2023, Méndez faces allegations that she and her husband schemed to profit by purchasing a man’s home for a price below market value, getting more than $270,000 in code violations erased before flipping the home.

Méndez has denied any wrongdoing. The case is pending in circuit court. The Florida Bar is also investigating the allegations.

Read more: Judge mutes Miami city attorney’s mic during heated testimony in home-flipping lawsuit

Challenges to the city’s voting map, approved in 2021, have led to several decisions against the city in civil court. Miami’s legal department is also using taxpayer dollars to pay millions in legal fees for the defense of Commissioner Joe Carollo in a federal civil case where a jury found he had weaponized city resources to carry out a political vendetta.

In December, Méndez took heat after she ignored state officials’ warnings over what was required to properly pass a proposed tax rate. Her legal advice, according to City Manager Art Noriega, led officials to believe that the city could pass a proposed property tax rate with four sitting commissioners in late September. The board was short by one member after former Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla was arrested, removed from office and charged with bribery and money laundering.

The commission later had to hold an emergency vote to approve the tax rate to avoid forfeiting tax revenue.

Pardo and Commissioner Miguel Angel Gabela, who were both elected in November after running on anti-corruption and reform platforms, have called for Méndez to resign since they took office.