Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Council Questions City Legal Unit's Hiring of Laquidara; Crescimbeni Suggests General Counsel's Office Was Always Planning to Call upon Former General Counsel

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Council Questions City Legal Unit's Hiring of Laquidara; Crescimbeni Suggests General Counsel's Office Was Always Planning to Call upon Former General Counsel

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher Hong

While Jacksonville's former general counsel will represent the city in several upcoming cases, it will be on a short-term basis until a further City Council review.

The council rejected an emergency motion on Tuesday to pay Cindy Laquidara $150,000 to represent the city in five lawsuits, instead authorizing just $50,000 that will allow her to immediately begin preparing for several upcoming deadlines. The council will discuss whether to keep her on the cases on an extended basis later next month.

The General Counsel's Office's last-minute request, which was entered late last week, drew the ire and suspicion of council members during their regular meeting Tuesday. Councilman John Crescimbeni questioned why the city's legal staff didn't begin preparing for Laquidara's departure, announced in April, sooner. He also suggested the General Counsel's Office already decided to hire Laquidara while she was still in office, citing federal court documents from June 25 that he said discussed the plan.

"No decision was made to advance legislation to the council for debate and consideration," Crescimbeni said. "We're expecting more from our General Counsel's Office than this behavior. This almost looks like no one wanted to tell us."

During questioning from Crescembeni, General Counsel Jason Gabriel denied his office was hiding their plans from the council and said he made his request as soon as he could after taking office on July 1. However, John Phillips, deputy general counsel, said the documents should have been worded differently.

"There was probably, for better or worse, there was an expectation that Cindy would still be involved in those cases," Gabriel said.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer said that while Laquidara is a valuable legal asset for the city, there needs to be a plan to transition the cases to in-house attorneys. …

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