Riviera Beach city attorney represented two council members before being hired by city

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. - Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters said that he will not sign a resolution, approved by council on Oct. 18, that states that former City Manager Jonathan Evans was fired “without cause”. 

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“I can’t sign that because that’s not what happened,” Masters said. 

But that’s exactly what Riviera Beach City Attorney Andrew DeGraffenreidt is asking council to do, despite the fact that Councilman Terence Davis made the motion on September 20 “for cause” and “for misfeasance”. 

Since Evans was fired, DeGraffenreidt has been an active voice. 

During the Sept. 20 meeting, when Evans was fired, he told Davis and the rest of council not to give any details as to why they wanted Evans gone. 

“Due to the legal legalities of it, and I’m going to protect the city and not protect him (Evans),” Davis said on Sept. 20. “I made sure I sat down with my city attorney.”

Councilwoman Tonya Davis Johnson said that same night, she felt blindsided, not just by Davis but by the city’s attorney as well. 

“If there is in fact an issue or some severe activity that has been undertaken by our city manager, then that should have been brought to the body of this council by correspondence, in my opinion, from our attorney,” Davis Johnson said on Sept. 20.

In a memo to city leaders, DeGraffenreidt said that in his legal opinion, Evans was fired “without cause” and he should be paid $83,000 severance due to him. It would be just $14,000 if council fired Evans “for cause”.

DeGraffenreidt’s memo did not sit well with City Finance Director Randy Sherman, who denied the city attorney’s request to prepare a check for Evans. 

During the Oct. 18 council meeting, Sherman said that he has retained outside legal counsel.

Sherman is not the only city leader who appears to have lost confidence in DeGraffenreidt’s legal opinion. 

Chairwoman KaShamba Miller-Anderson said she’s asking for outside legal counsel. 

Riviera Beach originally hired DeGraffenreidt in 1990. In 1998, just one week after council voted to renew his contract, the city suddenly fired him. 

DeGraffenreidt responded by filing a lawsuit, claiming city council should not have allowed one member to change his vote. 

The city and DeGraffenreidt settled in 1999. 

While in private practice, DeGraffenreidt sued the city multiple times on his behalf and for others. 
He also represented city council members Terence Davis, and Lynne Hubbard. 

In 2013, he represented Davis in a lawsuit that sought to disqualify Davis as a candidate for city council.

In 2016, he represented Hubbard when she was sued by another city council member.

Then, with two former clients as council members, DeGraffenreidt was re-hired in July 2016.

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