Lawsuit aimed at legality of Laquidara position
Cindy Laquidara says her appointment and confirmation as city general counsel is legal. A lawsuit by the Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County asks the courts to decide.
The lawsuit filed by the watchdog group contends Laquidara was never properly appointed to the position, which requires a five-attorney selection panel to recommend candidates to the mayor.
Laquidara was selected for the role by former Mayor John Peyton in 2010 to replace Rick Mullaney, who stepped down to run for mayor.
When her term was drawing to a close in mid-2011, Mayor-elect Alvin Brown reappointed her to a four-year term, which the outgoing City Council approved.
John Winkler, Concerned Taxpayers president, said Sunday the City Charter process "absolutely was not followed" and Laquidara should be removed and the proper procedure take place — which Laquidara could take part in.
"This isn't about retaliation, it isn't about personalities," Winkler said. "It's about the charter and whether or not it was followed."
Her reappointment in 2011 was for a three-month term to allow Brown to select a new general counsel during his first few months of transition. Laquidara was set to join the private sector before she returned, with Brown saying during a November 2011 news conference he had rejected her resignation letter and asked her to continue as general counsel.
A general counsel's four-year term coincides with the mayor.
Several council members have discussed the validity of Laquidara's appointment in recent months. That culminated with council member Bill Bishop seeking a legal opinion — from Laquidara — on the issue, which she responded to in an Aug. 16 letter.
Among his questions: Bishop asked whether the vote approving Laquidara for the term coinciding with Brown's was valid, given that it was by the former council, and whether a mayor-elect has the authority to make appointments for an outgoing council.
Laquidara responded the resolution was "effective" and that mayor-elects have the power to introduce resolutions that become effective July 1, the first day of office. In addition, she said the resolution that appointed her general counsel and not "acting."
Resolution 2010-357 refers to making Laquidara general counsel, with no mention of "acting."
In a statement issued Sunday, the mayor's office supported Laquidara and said she already addressed the issue in the Aug. 16 legal opinion.
"Since 2010, Cindy has ably served the City of Jacksonville … as General Counsel. Mayor Brown looks forward to her continued services as the consolidated government's chief attorney," Chris Hand, Brown's chief of staff, said.
Winkler maintains the proper procedure wasn't followed, Laquidara was considered temporary and Brown should not have been able to make the reappointment.
"There's no real point in having it (the charter) if you're just going to ignore it," he said.