The Complaint alleges that “The City continues to make these demands to this day,” and asks for treble damages, costs and attorney fees, under Florida’s Civil Remedies for Crim
inal PracticesAct, in addition to lost profits ensuing from the violation of the
constitutional right todue process and breach of a settlement agreement reached with the City that induced Griffith towithdraw his lawsuit against it.The $30,000 is identified as the legal fees of a private person, Jane Gross, wife of Commissioner Gross at the time he appeared before the City Commission in an effort to change the outdatedordinance, frequently violated by other clubs with virtual impunity, which prohibits full nuditywhere liquor is served.His liquor license was nearly in the bag, he thought, after a first reading by the Commission.However, at the second, public hearing, he lost his cause after a crowd of kids and their teachersand parents showed up to protest his application.The protest was orchestrated, he alleged, by Jane Gross, who had engaged in a smear campaignagainst him which included defamatory statements. He sued her for libel but dismissed his claimwith the understanding that each party would pay their own legal fees and that he would get afair hearing on his cause. He also dismissed a federal lawsuit against the city to that end.However, the City then insisted that he reimburse Jane Gross for her fees in order to gainlegislative access, something that the Ethics Commission advocate thought would never berequired of an ordinary Jane Doe or John Doe. Secret meetings of city attorneys andcommissioners
revealed that they took Griffith’s suit personally because it was a “family”
matter. The family perspective was openly affirmed from the dais at a public hearing where
Griffith’s access to the legislative process was denied beca
use of the
“pink elephant” in the
had at the time referred the demand for $30,000 to the State Attorney becauseit appeared to be an extortionate act, a serious crime. Assistant State Attorney Joe Centorino,now Director of the Ethics Commission, handed off the allegation to the Ethics Commission,which sat on the fence, noting an appearance of impropriety and issuing an Instruction that suchappearances should be avoided.The extortionate demand, which could have resulted in a $250 fine for an ethics violation insteadof a fine and jail sentences under criminal law, had been made under advice of counsel, and itwas the tradition of the Ethics Commission
, read the ethics advocate’
s revelatory report, not tocondemn unethical acts committed under legal advice.All but one of the Miami Beach officials involved in the alleged extortion conspiracy areattorneys. The alleged conspirators included City Attorney Jose Smith, former Mayor DavidDermer, former Commissioners Simon Cruz and Saul Gross, and city attorneys Gary Held andMurray Dubbin.
As far as the city officials were concerned, Griffith’s lawsuits were extortionate attempts to get a
liquor license, so their extortion was tit for tat.