On Wednesday, November 29th,2017, the Third District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida affirmed Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Jose M. Rodriguez’s finding that ex-City of South Miami Police Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro’s valid employment contract was wrongfully terminated by the City of South Miami in 2013.
“As Chief of Police, I put the interest of those I served first. When the city made it clear they wanted me out, they made an offer to buy out my contract for less than what I was owed. As I had done nothing wrong and had not breached my duties under the contract, it was unacceptable to me. The city’s leaders decided against fully compensating me and, instead, chose to spend the residents’ money to try and pursue personal agendas against me,” said Orlando Martinez de Castro. “I am pleased I have been vindicated not once, but twice; first by the lower court and now by the appellate court who returned a verdict very quickly and unanimously. It is upsetting that this has been done at the expense of the city’s taxpayers.”
The verdict was in the amount of $434,731.85 that has now accrued $90,000 in interest and is now due to Mr. Martinez de Castro. This amount does not include his attorneys’ fees and costs for trial and co-appellate counsel, Paul G. Totten, Esq. and Anthony G. Franqui, Esq., of the Miami firm, Franqui Totten, LLP or the attorneys’ fees and costs of Mr. Martinez de Castro’s appellate attorneys, Richard A. Sherman, Sr., Esq. and James W. Sherman, Esq. of the Fort Lauderdale firm, The Law Offices of Richard A. Sherman, P.A., or any interest that may be owed on those fees.
In total, this will likely cost the City of South Miami at least $850,000.00, just to the Plaintiff and his attorneys. This sum does not include the cost the city will have to pay to its own attorneys. The appellate court’s opinion confirmed that attorneys’ fees are owed, and all that remains is for Judge Rodriguez to determine the final amount. Martinez de Castro’s attorneys may also be eligible for a multiplier, which if approved by the court, will increase the attorneys’ fees by a factor of 1.5 to 3.
“The leaders of the City Commission who wrongfully terminated Orlando have maintained their unreasonable opposition of my Client’s case for almost five years. They forced him to engage in this lengthy, hotly contested litigation process, fighting him every step of the way,” said Paul G. Totten, Martinez de Castro’s attorney. “We have always argued their position was devoid of any legal authority and outside of the powers afforded to them under the City Charter. Judge Rodriguez agreed with us at the Trial Court Level and now the Third DCA has also agreed with us by affirming his rulings. Unfortunately, the result of their unreasonable position will ultimately be borne by the taxpayers of the City.”
The original lawsuit was filed on March 13, 2013 after the City of South Miami improperly withheld contractual benefits from Martinez de Castro and refused to submit to contractual mediation and binding arbitration. After filing the lawsuit, the City passed Resolution #167-13-13985 on August 14, 2013 in a failed attempt to claim that Martinez de Castro had resigned his position by operation of law, voiding the Employment Agreement.
In March 2015, the lower court vindicated the Plaintiff, who has maintained throughout that he was never appointed the position of Acting City Manager, nor had he resigned his position as Chief of Police, as was alleged by the City of South Miami.