Legal experts question Riviera Beach city attorney's opinion on stipend

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. - Riviera Beach council members can’t give themselves a raise, they have to ask the voters for that. But in 2015 they found a way around that by giving themselves a $12,000 annual stipend as part of the utility board work. 

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On Monday’s utility board meeting, board members KaShamba Miller-Anderson and Julia Botel said they wanted to get rid off the stipend, but City Attorney Andrew DeGraffenreidt said they could not make such a motion.

“It seemed pretty staged to me,” Miller-Anderson said.

DeGraffenreidt said only those council members who voted in favor of the stipend in 2015 could now overturn it.

“I’m very disturbed that it appears that I will not be able to make any motion,” Botel said. 

DeGraffenreidt cited a 2002 resolution (2602 K 6) to support his opinion, but that rule applies to a motion made during a particular council meeting, not for meetings in the future.

The only person who voted for the stipend in 2015, and who is still serving on the board now is Councilman Terence Davis.

But Davis did not make a motion to rescind the stipend on Monday.

Miller-Anderson rephrased her motion. Instead of “rescinding” the stipend, she wanted to change the amount from $1000 to $0. But DeGraffenreidt said she couldn’t change the amount either.

“You mean to tell me they’re (future board members) going to be stuck with having it in the budget?” Miller-Anderson asked DeGraffenreidt. “They’ll never be able to change that?”

Several attorneys, including WPTV legal expert Michelle Susskauer said DeGraffenreidt is absolutely wrong.

“The way I read it in that particular provision is that it’s very specific to one hearing,” Susskauer said. 

DeGraffenreidt’s opinion carried on Monday, meaning council members can continue to pay themselves $1000 a month on top of their salaries.

Botel said she will not accept the money.

“I have absolutely no faith that this board will voluntarily give up that stipend,” Botel said. 

Miller-Anderson said she’s always been against it and hasn’t accepted it either. 

“It’s just not justified,” Miller-Anderson said. 

Since the stipend is part of council members' salary, they can use the stipend anyway they want and they do not have to justify how they spend the money. 

While some members of council said they used that money for a good cause, there is no way to proof that they did. 

Miller-Anderson said she’s not trusting the legal opinion given by the city attorney and she’s asking for outside legal advice on the matter. 

She also asked for DeGraffenreidt’s contract to be put up for discussion on the agenda for the next city council meeting.

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