Sunrise’s Botched City Attorney Search Will Overshadow Future



Sunrise City Attorney Stuart Michelson has a problem.

Its not the generous salary that was handed him last June.  That contact is worth up to $432,000 annually, minus his expenses and the salary of an assistant city attorney Michelson hired to help him.

It’s the way Michelson was hired — a classic no-bid deal.

It didn’t need to be that way.

Michelson is a fine lawyer. I spent many lunches with him, munching Sushi and marveling at the lightning quick mind of this litigator.

He will be a good city attorney.

Sadly, his actions will always be overshadowed by his hiring. 

Future Michelson opinions will be called “payback to the commissioners who hired him. 

Commissioners Roger Wishner, Sheila Alu and Don Rosen voted to hand Michelson the job. They didn’t consider any other lawyers.

Commissioner Joey Scuotto voted “no.”

The Miami Herald’s Dan Christensen pulled back the curtain and exposed the grubby little story.

Michelson was the campaign treasurer for Sunrise Mayor Steve Feren, who was running for judge at the time.  Feren supported Michelson’s bid to be city attorney, but abstained from the final vote after the Herald story.

Michelson also did legal work for Wishner and Alu, according to The Herald.  

Just a cozy little club in Sunrise. 

Now opinions that Michelson gives will be examined through a political lens.

Is he twisting the opinion to cater favor with the commissioners who hired him?


That’s what it looked like to some this week, when Michelson said the city didn’t have to hold a mayor’s election in March.  His interpretation of city law means Wisher is mayor until 2010 without having to run in an election. 

Critics called it a payback to Wishner for the no-bid hiring.

Or payback to Scuotto, who voted against hiring Michelson and wanted to run for mayor.

This all could have been solved if the four Sunrise commissioners were a little savvier and a little less arrogant.

For the taxpayers sake they should have honestly considered other attorneys and picked the best one. 

But if they wanted to steer the deal to Michelson, Sunrise should have followed the example of the Broward County Commission.  The county commission has a long history of steering deals to a favored few. 

Here is what the county commission would have done to steer the deal to Michelson:

They would have taken applications from every lawyer and firm seeking the attorney’s job.  They would have sat through formal presentations from a short list of these lawyers, including Michelson.

This would have all been pretence. In the end they would have hired Michelson anyway. 

But county commissioners know enough to go through the motions.  They know enough to make it look like they are doing a real search for an attorney.

If Sunrise had followed that time-honored political slight of hand, it would have eliminated much of the criticism about the no-bid Michelson deal.

Then every opinion by Michelson would carry more weight in the future.

There is at least one person in Sunrise who should have known how the county commission works: Stuart Michelson. 

Michelson’s wife is County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman.


7 Responses to “Sunrise’s Botched City Attorney Search Will Overshadow Future”

  1. peter c says:

    Lay off of Stuart. He’s a good guy.

  2. Richard J Kaplan says:

    The Sunrise Commission could have gone through a process (and in hind sight probably should have), but Sunrise decided not to. Right or wrong, its not Stuart’s fault that he got hired.

    Stuart is a fine attorney and can stand on his own with his creditials, and besides, Stuart didn’t hire Stuart, the Sunrise Commission did. You don’t blame the employee that got hired, you blame the employer who hired them. Only the employer hires.

    As to not agreeing with an Attorney’s opinion, Attorneys disagree with each other all the time. If they didn’t you wouldn’t need courts. I have disagreed with my own Attorneys. Sometime later we may have found out they were right, other times I was right. Even judges are not always right, and that’s why you have appeals.

  3. Commissioner Alu says:

    Just to make sure that the record is clear, Stuart Michelson has NEVER represented me on a private matter. He has represented me only in my capacity as a City Commissioner. Once, in a frivolous ethic’s complaint ghost written by a person connected with All Service Refuse solely because I was putting their garbage contract out for bid. Secondly, when I was sued for yet again another baseless lawsuit filed by one of my political opponents, which was dismissed with prejudice. And, the third time when you had me served to sit for a deposition, I might add two days before taking the Bar Exam, for a ridiculous lawsuit between yourself and another reporter, Bob Norman. You think you ethically should disclose this information when writing about me? We wouldn’t want your bloggers to think you have a personal axe to grind with me, would we?

    I really don’t understand what happened to you Buddy. I really don’t.

  4. P. Luger says:

    Comm Alu it is good to see you provide us with some new facts about why Mr. Nevins. Also is the writer Richard J. Kaplan the Mayor of Lauderhill. If so it shocks me that he would sick his nose into another city’s charter issues.

  5. Beth The Bounty Hunter says:

    Buddy would never write using some other person’s name….he has dug up so much dirt over the years of bad dealings in Broward County and he always wrote the truth.

  6. Democracy says:

    Democracy mandates that we have the basic right to vote. This heads the list of problems in America today. So many soldiers and others lost their lives and were injured to protect, what a few want to destroy. What these few have done in Sunrise can not be taken lightly. We have seen in other countries, such as Cuba, China, Iran, N.Korea, Russia and Germany, what happens when a few have taken away the right of the majority. How can you take away our rights, so that you can give sweetheart deals to allies and friends. Can our values be thrown out for so little.

  7. Michelson Gets $100,000 More From Sunrise : says:

    […] Me?  I think the deal to hire Michelson without even talking to other attorneys stunk.  It was foolish fiscally and politically. […]