Should taxpayers pay for defense expenses?
caines | 12/20/2012, 4:30 a.m.
Commissioner Spence-Jones has sued the State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, Prosecutor Scruggs, Investigator Fiedler and Mayor Regalado for conspiring together to falsely prosecute her and to keep her out office. This is a massive lawsuit that will cost over a million dollars to defend.If Spence-Jones proves her case, then there has been a serious breach of trust by two elected officials and two hired public servants. Falsely prosecuting someone is not in keeping with any of their job duties.When Commissioner Spence-Jones was prosecuted, she had to pay for her lawyers out of her own pocket. The City of Miami reimbursed her after she proved her innocence. The State Attorneys Office has a very tight budget as do most public entities.The City of Miami declared a fiscal crisis; which the Mayor used to beat down the unions for the last three years.Miraculously, the City found $29 million dollars recently.How does one lose that much money and then find it?Do you misplace it in the sock drawer? My question; which I cannot answer, is do the taxpayers foot the legal bill for four people at the expense of other programs? Likewise, should the City of Miami pay for Mayor Regalados legal expenses used to conspire to keep a duly elected Commissioner from obtaining office, because he wanted three out of five votes on the commission to get his agenda?On the other hand, if the four defendants were working in the scope of their official duties, shouldnt their employers pay for the cost of defending them? The precedent set by City of Miami in Michelle Spence-Jones case was that the City did not pay her legal expenses until she proved her innocence, at which point she was reimbursed. This puts a huge burden on public servant, who in the case of Michelle Spence-Jones had to pay over $150,000 to her attorney. However, if she did not hire a superb attorney, she might now be resting in jail. In my opinion, as a civil rights lawyer, who has pursued Section 1983 claims if Michelle Spence-Jones proves her case and wins before a jury, the jury award to compensate for her loss of reputation is going to be several million dollars. Who pays for that? Is it the taxpayers?Is it the individual defendants? Do Scruggs and Fiedler pay if they were just taking orders?Why should taxpayers pay for misdeeds and abuse of power? At the same time, the defendants used their positions of public trust and the power of their office to basically crucify another public official. It could be argued that the entities should pay. I obviously have a lot of time on my hand and this situation is intellectually stimulating and challenging.If Michelle Spence Jones is correctand Fernandez-Rundle and Regalado conspired tocreate false charges her to keep her out office, then who should pay for the extra elections that their misfeasance caused?We as taxpayers bore that expense, but should it be shifted to the individuals who actually caused the needless elections? Reginald J. Clyne is a partner at Clyne and Associates, P.A. of Miami/Fort Lauderdale.