Ever since Norman Powell lost his sweet gig as the municipal attorney for North Bay Village on February 28, 2019, he’s been even more desperate to snag the permanent position in the Village of El Portal.
According to the minutes of the March 27, 2018, meeting, Cubillos desperately tried to convince her colleagues to bypass an RFQ (request for quotation) and select Powell even though “only the mayor met with him,” as pointed out by Vice Mayor Omarr Nickerson (page 16 on the minutes), to which the mayor responded with, “I believe I think he made the attempt to contact all of us.”
Then-Councilman Werner Dreher protested and stated for the record, “My point here is I want to be transparent to our community, that we’re doing our due diligence and advertising a position that we think a qualified candidate. I’m not saying [Powell is] unqualified, but we’re doing that. My second question is, now why are we doubling the salary of this contract right from $4,000 to $8,000 [a month]?”
At that time, Norman Powell was also the attorney for North Bay Village earning $8,000 a month, and Dreher rightly asked if they could compare El Portal’s budget to that of North Bay Village.
According to El Portal’s Revenue and Expenditure Report for legal fees, in 2014 and 2015, the salary of the village’s then-part-time attorney (Joe Geller’s firm, Greenspoon Marder) was $18,000, or $1,500 a month The cost of outside counsel was minimal.
In 2016 and 2017, however, the fees paid to outside counsel skyrocketed from $1,740 to $32,127.91 in 2016 and $55,745.00 in 2017.
At the beginning of FY 2017-2018, the council increased the village attorney’s salary to $4,000 a month in order to reduce fees paid to outside counsel.
When they hired Norman Powell on March 27, 2018, however, the counsel doubled his salary to $8,000 a month under the condition that it be “all-inclusive.”
Mayor Cubillos stated on the record, “When attorney Geller charges $1,500, it wasn’t all-inclusive, which is why we ended up paying last year $74,000. What contract, if you all read it, it is all-inclusive. There’s not going to be land use fees, there’s not going to be when we pick up the phone and there’s a fee for that. This is all-inclusive.”
Norman Powell then chimed in, “If you look at the budget and you take the legal retainer and add the other legal, it comes to 85,000. What you’re proposing now is 96 so it’s $11,000 difference. However, the big difference is that if there’s any lawsuits which the village has to address, it’s all going to be all-inclusive in the fee. It’s not going to be on the extra charges because that’s, as you know, we’ve had a couple of years we’ve had one or two lawsuits and we had that one workers complain where our cost in legal fees was over $50,000. You have to bear that in mind also.”
Except they both lied.
We direct your attention to lines 8 and 9 on page 2 of the Draft Budget 2019-2020 regarding the cost of legal fees for the village. Line 8 reflects that the village budgeted the sum of $96,000, or $8,000 a month, for the department of the Village Attorney and zero for Other Legal, which is outside counsel.
As of May 19, 2019, however, the village had already paid its in house attorney the amount of $64,000, and an additional $27,380 for outside counsel. By the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2019, the village projects that it will have spent a total of $96,000 to its attorney and $30,000 to outside counsel, for a combined total of $126,000 for legal fees, which is $30,000 over budget.
So much for the “it’s all inclusive” lie!
At the March 27, 2018 meeting, Mayor Cubillos brushed off Councilman Dreher’s questions by stating that she’d like to put out a bid for an attorney but that time was of the essence and they needed to appoint an interim attorney immediately.
What she didn’t publicly disclose is that her BFF is former North Bay Village mayor, Connie Leon-Krepps, whose nearly decade-long reign of terror was aided and abetted by her loyal henchman and protector, Norman Powell. For obvious reasons, Claudia is bound and determined to keep Norman close by her side at Village Hall.
At the July 16, 2019 Administration and Finance Committee meeting, Committee Chairman/Vice Mayor Nickerson introduced Item G3 on the Agenda, “Attorney Interim Status Discussion” (minute 8:05 of the meeting video).
It’s worthy to note that three of the five-member village councilpersons make up the three-member A&F Committee (i.e., Mayor Cubillos, Vice Mayor Nickerson and Councilwoman Vimari Roman), which basically means that the committee’s job is to make recommendations to themselves, who in turn vote for the recommendations they made to themselves.
Committee Chairman Nickerson was of the opinion that no voting decision should be made until after the 2019-2020 budget had been completed. Claudia, however, was having none of that.
As soon as the Chair opened the item up for discussion, Claudia immediately began shilling for Norman by claiming that if the position was put to a bid “the residents would be surprised to see what it’s gonna come in at because I think the residents fail to recognize is that the attorney is here four and five nights at two and three hours minimum per night. That in itself covers his salary.”
Claudia immediately defended Norman’s exorbitant $8,000 a month salary by claiming that municipal attorneys make anywhere between “a low of $200, if not $375 to $675 an hour.”
Except, she’s lying.
The average annual salary for a full-time city attorney in South Florida is $127,000 a year, or approximately $61.00 per hour.
She continued, “While I know that $96,000 may seem astronomical to a lot of people, they are an attorney. As such, they’re paid as an attorney.”
Considering that Claudia just publicly stated that Norman works at most 12 hours a week, his $8,000 monthly salary comes out to $667 per hour – or more than $600 an hour over the going rate.
She also forgot to mention that Norman’s part-time salary of $96,000 does not include the $30,000 the village will have to pay to outside council for legal work by the end of FY 2019.
Nevertheless, Chairman Nickerson appears to have been outvoted because according to item H1 of the Agenda for the July 23, 2019 Council meeting, the A&F Committee recommended to their alter egos (a/k/a themselves) “to make the interim attorney permanent or to open the position for discussion.”
And once again, Claudia vigorously argued in favor of hiring Norman.
At minute 37:45 of the meeting video, she announced that “the Admin and Finance Committee made a recommendation to the full council to make the attorney permanent.” She casually added that if the council wanted to put out an RFQ, then it would have to go back to the committee (a/k/a themselves).
Councilwoman Roman made a motion to hire Norman as permanent attorney, which was seconded by Vice Mayor Nickerson for discussion purposes.
Councilman Anders Urbom began the discussion by saying he had a few questions.
First he asked if there was any documentation submitted regarding conflicts of interest involving Norman Powell, to which Claudia responded, “To my recollection, to my knowledge, no.”
Except she’s lying.
Several sources advised that Norman and Councilwoman Roman’s husband, Nariman Daruvalla, are good friends.
So good, in fact, that they attended a Christian retreat together in May of 2015, as evidenced by this photo posted on the Facebook page of Emmaus of Miami – SRL Men.
Here’s a close-up of the two buddies side by side at the retreat.
We can’t help but wonder if Mr. Daruvalla also attended the same Christian retreat that Norman was flying off to last December when he was arrested for illegally concealing a gun while going through security at Miami International Airport.
Needless to say, Ms. Roman did not acknowledge the potential conflict of interest between her husband and Norman.
Mr. Urbom then asked why there was no proposed contract attached to the Agenda, to which Claudia brushed off as not necessary since one had not been negotiated as yet.
And finally, when Mr. Urbom asked why an RFQ wasn’t immediately issued at the same time they hired an attorney in an interim status, Claudia became visibly annoyed and rudely talked down to him as if she were dealing with one of her preschool students at Ms. Claudia’s Village Academy. She scolded him for not understanding the agenda item and for having the nerve to show up at the A&F Committee meeting even though he wasn’t a member.
Mr. Urbom continued unfazed by her obnoxious behavior and expressed his desire to put the position of village attorney out for bid.
Vice Mayor Nickerson was also hesitant to make an immediate decision, suggesting they wait until September.
Headmistress Claudia then chastised Mr. Nickerson as well for daring to question her authority.
Councilwoman Roman, who is a member of the A&F Committee, bobble-headed her agreement with her Great and Glorious Leader.
Councilman Harold E. Mathis, Jr. asked Norman if he even wanted the position.
To which he replied, “Nah.”
He desperately wants the job.
Norman went on to basically boast about what a great lawyer he is and that the village needs him.
At that point, Mr. Nickerson, who began his comment with “as you know I have the utmost respect for Mayor Cubillos,” flat out denied making the motion to make Norman permanent. He also reminded her that he wanted to wait until after the budget was finalized. He further explained that she said she didn’t want to wait and that she’s been pushing it.
Queen Claudia was obviously not happy that Mr. Nickerson had the audacity to correct her in public.
Oh, my, if looks could kill!
Claudia insisted that Vice Mayor Nickerson made the motion at the A&F Committee meeting to hire Norman as permanent attorney (hour 1:01:01 of the meeting video). When he shook his head no, she threw her hands up and said, “There’s video of that.”
Oh, yes there is, Madam Mayor.
At minute 26:26 of the A&F meeting video, Chairman/Vice Mayor Nickerson asked if anyone wanted to make a motion, and Councilwoman Roman declared, “I’ll motion to make the interim attorney our permanent attorney.”
Looks like Claudia lied once again.
And she also owes Mr. Nickerson an apology for accusing him of lying.
The floor was then opened up for public comment. Four residents came up to the podium and were adamant that the correct process be followed and demanded that an RFQ be issued.
Do yourself a favor and watch those four residents bitch slap the Mayor and Council for 12 minutes at hour 1:04:08 of the meeting video. It’s a beautiful thing!
When it came time to vote, the motion to hire Norman failed 4-1 with only Councilwoman Roman voting to hire her husband’s good friend as permanent attorney. Yeah, there’s a lot of that cronyism going around in El Portal.
Surprisingly, Claudia voted no, but we suspect it was because she was feeling the pressure from the residents who were clearly in favor of doing the right thing over business as usual in El Portal.
Unfortunately, there are no term limits for elected officials in El Portal, and three of them of them have been in power way too long.
Claudia has been on the council since 2008 (and as mayor since 2014) for a total of 11 years.
We have no idea how long Harold E. Mathis, Jr. has been in office, and no one at Village Hall was able to tell us. We do know, however, that his name appears on the minutes of the January 27, 2009 meeting minutes as the Vice Mayor, which are the oldest minutes posted on the village website. He’s been there at least 10 years or more.
UPDATE: Mathis has been an elected official in El Portal since 2008, for a total of 11 years. (Miami Herald, October 24, 2014)
Ditto for Omarr C. Nickerson, whose name first appeared on the minutes of the February 22, 2011 meeting minutes. He’s been in office for more than 8 years.
Even the President of the United States only gets to serve for eight years.
It’s way past time for these three career politicians to be voted out.
Of the remaining two, Vimari Roman was first elected in 2016, and Anders Urbom was elected only last November.
From what we’ve been able to gather so far, Mr. Urbom is on to Claudia’s game and has become a major thorn in her side.
Good for him!
Even if Councilman Urbom is the lone voice on the dais questioning the mayor’s unethical decisions and forcing them all into the sunshine, his is the voice that El Portal residents sorely need.
We urge him to stand strong!
As for good old Norman, shed no tears for him.
Because water truly does seek its own level, the shady AF Norman Powell has already lined up a job at the law firm of Bernadette Norris-Weeks, P.A., the even shadier AF personal lawyer of the shadiest AF of them all, the now-fired Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes.
This is the same Bernadette Norris-Weeks who aided and abetted Snipes in rigging the 2016 congressional primary election for Debbie Wasserman Schultz in favor of her opponent Tim Canova by illegally destroying ballots, an act for which Snipes was found guilty of breaking the law by Broward County Judge Raag Singhal.
But we digress.
We sincerely hope that the residents of El Portal keep putting pressure on their elected officials to do what North Bay Village finally did – FIRE NORMAN POWELL!
We also recommend initiating a recall election of Mayor Claudia Cubillos.