Miami Beach City Attorney Requests Early Retirement

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Miami Beach City Attorney Requests Early Retirement:

Commission to Discuss Process for Replacement

Miami Beach City Attorney Raul Aguila ,who has been on medical leave for the past four months, has informed the Mayor and City Commission that he would like to take an early retirement. Aguila encouraged the Commission to “swiftly” move forward to select a new City Attorney and recommended they choose Rafael Paz who has been serving as Acting City Attorney.

Aguila noted he is “doing extremely well” following a liver transplant and told Commissioners in a letter advising of his plans that, “I feel stronger every day.” 

“I am blessed to have been given this miracle of a transplantation surgery, and to be on this journey with the support of an excellent medical team, my incredible family, all of you, and many friends. I miss you all very much,” he wrote.

“It has been the honor and joy of my life to serve our City for the last 29 years. But as you can imagine, the past few months have been life-changing for me,” he said. “It is with a heavy heart, and a great deal of optimism for our City, that I advise you that I would like to accept an early retirement as your City Attorney, even though my contract does not expire until the end of March, 2022.” [Emphasis Aguila’s.]

Aguila said he was “willing to step aside voluntarily, so that my contract is not an issue,” if the Commission wanted to appoint his successor now, though he is asking them to consider allowing him to serve as a consultant “during the initial transition period, through the term of my agreement ending March, 2022.”

It is in the City’s best interest to move forward with a City Attorney selection swiftly, and I encourage you to do so now,” he wrote. [Emphasis his.]

City Attorney Raul Aguila

“As you know, the relationship of the City Commission with its City Attorney is one that must be first and foremost based on trust. For this reason, there is a long history – going back more than 25 years – of the City Commission directly appointing the City Attorney, by either promoting from within the office, or directly appointing a qualified individual without a search,” Aguila wrote, citing his appointment from within in 2014, the appointment of Jose Smith following his service as a City Commissioner, and Murray Dubbin before Smith. [Emphasis Aguila’s.]

Since his appointment as Acting City Attorney, Aguila wrote, “[H]e has emerged as my clear and obvious successor.” [Emphasis his.]

Paz has been serving as Acting City Attorney since December when Aguila was put in the role of Interim City Manager following the departure of Jimmy Morales. He has continued in the role while Aguila has been on medical leave. During what Aguila said “has effectively been a nine month job interview,” Paz “has worked with each of you and the Administration on many matters, including the legal issues involved with multiple states of emergency; an unprecedented building safety effort following the tragic collapse in Surfside; an active legislative agenda focused on quality of life, public safety and economic recovery; significant transactions requiring voter approval later this year; and high-profile litigation matters, including an election-related challenge to our City Charter by a sitting commissioner – a test even I never had to face in my decades of service.” The City recently won a challenge by Commmissioner Michael Góngora over the City's term limits for commissioners, making him ineligible to run for re-election.

“And on every matter, I am extremely proud of how Rafael has led his team and has demonstrated that in my absence, you have been provided [with] quality, dedicated client service,” Aguila wrote, noting “friends and colleagues” in the City Attorney’s Office, the City Administration, legal community, and key City stakeholders “share my support for Rafael.”

In providing his support, Aguila said, “I encourage you to do what this board has done before, and look to the person who is already doing the job, works collaboratively with the Administration, works extremely hard to deliver on everything each of you ask of him, and who loves this City and happens to be a long-time resident of this City.” [Emphasis his.]

The Commission will consider Aguila’s retirement and what to do about a successor at its meeting on September 9.