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Florida Bar File No.

2011-70,952 (11F)

LEROY GRIFFITH AGAINST MICHAEL CHRISTIAN GONGORA

And Press Request and Response




Michael Gongora (L) Leroy Griffith (R)

THE FLORIDA BAR
IN Q U IR Y /C O M P L A IN T FO R M
\
RECEIVED
MAR 1 * 2011
A CA P
PART ONE (SeePage 1, PART ONE - Required Information.):
Y our N ame: Leroy Griffith
Organization: C lub M adonna
A ddress: 1527 Washington A ve.
C ity: M iami Beach
State: FL
Zip C ode: 33139 P hone:
Email: office@clubmadonna.com
??.?.?
AC AP R eference N o.
A ttorney's N ame: M ichael Gongora
Address: 1700 C onvention C enter Dr.
C ity: M iami Beach State: FL v/lly. JLAicu.iii j^vttvii Owllv.
Zip Code: 33139 Telephone: 305-673-7030
PART TWO (See Page 1, PART TWO - Facts/Allegations.): The specific thing or things I am complaining about are:
See attached sheets
I am complaining about an attempted extortion incident between M ichael Gongora and myself, Leroy Griffith, which took
place at a luncheon meeting on July 12,2010.1 was asked to hire a lobbyist friend of M r. Gongora's, R andy M illiard, in
order to have an issue at my club presented to the full commission for consideration. If I did not hire the lobbyist, there
would be no access to the commission and Gongora would not discuss the issue. I did not hire M r. M illiard, and Gongora
did not discuss the issue further.
PART THREE (See Page 1, PART THREE - Witnesses.): The witnesses in support of my allegations are: [see attached
sheet].
PART FOUR (See Page 1, PART FOUR - Signature.): Under penalties of perjury, I declare that the foregoing facts are
true, correct and complete.
. I-?'//
D ate
Attorney: Michael Gongora
Specific thing or things I am complaining about:
Michael Gongora, Esq. ("Gongora"), City Commissioner, Miami Beach, conspired to extort me,
Leroy Griffith, owner of Club Madonna, into hiring a well-known lobbyist in order to hear an
issue Gongora had been promising me for seven months that he would present to the full City
of Miami Beach commission.
If I did not hire this lobbyist, Randy Milliard, Gongora would be effectively barring me from
appearing before the commission to present a proposed amendment to an ordinance that has
been the subject of controversy since 2004, when it passed by a 5-2 commission vote and was
subsequently defeated upon its second reading 4-3 due to the interference and unethical
behavior of Jane Gross, the wife of then-commissioner Saul Gross.
At this time I believe Gongora is guilty of extreme misconduct as both an attorney and public
official. I am alleging that Gongora engaged in behaviors that he knew were against the Florida
Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, exhibiting dishonesty, deceit, misrepresentation, and fraud.
He blatantly breached the public trust in the fair administration of justice through his attempted
extortion efforts.
As a lawyer who holds public office, he should be held to even higher standards -1believe
that he abused his public position for personal gain, which is in direct violation of the Rules of
Professional Conduct.
(Rule 4-8.4 Misconduct)
"A lawyer shall not:
(a) violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce
another to do so, or do so through the acts of another,
(b) commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness, or
fitness as a lawyer in other respects;
(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation;
(d) engage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the
administration of justice, including to knowingly, or through callous indifference, disparage,
humiliate, or discriminate against litigants, jurors, witnesses, court personnel, or other lawyers
on any basis, including, but not limited to, on account of race, ethnicity, gender, religion,
national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status,
employment, or physical characteristic;
(e) state or imply an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official;
Gongora and I had a meeting at approximately 2 p.m. on the 12th day of July, 2010. Also
present at that meeting was a well-known Miami Beach lobbyist, Randy Milliard and my public
relations and marketing manager, Carl Zablotny. The subject of such meeting was to make
sure that Commissioner Gongora was going to bring up the issue of serving liquor at Club
Madonna at the July 14, 2010 commission meeting. We had previously met on several other
occasions - including one in my office and one in Commissioner Gongora's office - during
which time Commissioner Gongora promised me that he would definitely bring this issue
before the commissioners, but he had not done so for more than six months. The presence
and purpose of Mr. Milliard at this meeting was unknown to me.
During the luncheon meeting of July 12 Gongora presented me with a proposal. Gongora said
that he needed to find out where other commissioners stood on the issue. He wanted me to
hire Mr. Milliard to do that research.
A heated argument ensued during which I informed Gongora that he didn't need any further
research and that I would not hire Mr. Milliard. All I wanted Gongora to do was put the issue on
the agenda and let the commissioners vote; then I could find out which commissioners were
telling me the truth and which were not. All I wanted was a fair vote; an up or down vote.
Commissioner Gongora abruptly stated that if I did not hire Mr. Milliard, he would not bring up
the issue and that this was the end of the discussion about Club Madonna. I did not hire Mr.
Milliard and subsequently Commissioner Gongora did not bring the issue before the Miami
Beach City Commission.
At the July 14th meeting of the city commission Carl Zablotny spoke during the open-forum
"Sutnick Hour" in favor of my situation and stated that he was appalled by Commissioner
Gongora's behavior just two days previous to this commission meeting. He informed the
commission of the Randy Milliard incident with myself and that Commissioner Gongora tried to
get me to hire Mr. Milliard in exchange for just bringing up the amendment issue before the
commission. He was then chastised by the mayor, Matti Bower, for bringing Commissioner
Gongora into the conversation about my concerns. My issue was never discussed again.
The background of this event as follows will put this entire complaint in context. In 2003 my
lawyers proposed an amendment to a Miami Beach ordinance to allow my club, which offers
total nudity as part of its entertainment, to serve alcohol. The serving of alcohol along with total
nudity in any establishment is prohibited in the City of Miami Beach by Chapter 6 of the Code
of the City of Miami Beach, "Alcoholic Beverages" and Chapter 6-40 "Total Nudity and Sexual
Conduct Prohibited."
In January, 2004 the ordinance easily passed 5-2. Then it failed at the second reading March
17, 2004 4-3 after Jane Gross led an e-mail and phone campaign against me and the
ordinance. She publically stated a number of untruths about my club and me to the point where
my lawyers asked for a retraction. When we did not receive the retraction I sued Jane Gross
for libel, slander, and defamation of character.
The City Manager, Jorge Gonzalez, and the Director of Planning, Jorge Gomez, suggested to
me and my lawyer at a meeting in the manager's office, shortly after the March 17, 2004 vote,
that we should sue the city so that they could consider a settlement of the matter in closed,
executive sessions. In May, 2004 I filed the lawsuit against Jane Gross and then in August,
2004,1filed a federal lawsuit against the city.
Instead of resolving the issues and agreeing to a proposed settlement, the commissioners only
conspired how to get me to drop my lawsuits and pay attorneys fees before they would even
talk to me or grant me access to the commission to hear my proposal. Only in exchange for
dropping the lawsuits with prejudice and paying the fees would the commissioners hear me.
The closed executive sessions took place on June 8, 2005, July 6, 2005, and July 27, 2005
and attended by Mayor David Dermer along with commissioners Matti Bower, Simon Cruz,
Luis Garcia, Saul Gross, Jose Smith, and Richard Steinberg. Also in attendance were City
Attorney Murray Dubbin, City Manager Jorge Gonzalez, Deputy City Attorney Don Papy, First
Assistant City Attorney Gary Held, and Senior Assistant City Attorney Roberto Datorre.
Dermer boasted at these meetings that the "merits" of my proposed amendment to the City
ordinance did not matter to him. It was the fact that I was suing the wife of a commissioner that
mattered. It was a "family" matter that needed to be cleared up first.
"I really don't like the fact that somebody through litigation is going to try to use that as a
wedge to intimidate, especially against the family member of a particular commissioner.. .No
matter what the rights or wrongs or the merits of the issue, I just don't like that. It just doesn't
sit well with me and I wanted to express it to you."
City Attorney Murray Dubbin made a suggestion not to even talk to me until I dropped my
lawsuits and paid attorneys fees. Everyone agreed to this proposition.
"May I make a suggestion?" he said. "... What would you think of our returning to the attorney
[Mr. Griffith's legal counsel] and saying look, we are not going to talk to you about anything
else until you first dismiss that case and perhaps pay the attorneys fees that are being
incurred." (Exhibit A, June 8, page 9).
I refused to pay the $30,000 in attorney's fees and the commission rejected any possible
settlement and did not allow me access to the commission after that point.
A complaint was filed with the State Attorney's Office (SAO) in February, 2006. After
investigation, the SAO referred the case to the County Commission on Ethics (COE).
The report from the SAO and the COE confirmed what was implied at the Dec. 5, 2005
Commission meeting. "It is reasonable to believe that the 'pink elephant' referred to was the
payment of Mrs. Gross's legal fees," the report said.
The report also stated that Assistant City Attorney Gary Held and Commissioners Jose Smith
and Luis Garcia admitted to the COE that "the City's agreement to settle (the Federal suit) was
contingent on Griffith's dismissing the case against Mrs. Gross and paying her attorney's
fees., .yes payment of Mrs. Gross's legal fees was a point of negotiation."
"Undoubtedly, some City of Miami Beach officials improperly intertwined City business with the
personal lawsuit pending against Commissioner Gross's wife and may have improperly
'participated' in Commission discussions when they stood to be enhanced by the action of the
board.. .In conclusion, it appears very likely that Commissioner Gross, along with other City
Commissioners, engaged in wholly inappropriate behavior by linking and conditioning the
payment of Mrs. Gross's legal fees to the settlement negotiations between Griffith and the
City...The evidence suggests that the City Attorney allowed the City Commission to push their
collegial bonds over the ethical line," the report explained.
The final outside action came with a decision from the COE which heard the case Dec. 3,
2008. They felt so strongly about the irregularities in this case that they sent a "letter of
instruction" to the City of Miami Beach Jan. 29, 2009 that concluded that "extraordinary caution
should be exercised whenever a local legislative body considers using its powers when they
are confronted with a perceived assault on one of their family members or the integrity of the
legislative body itself.. .any discussion wherein it might even appear that the City would attempt
to use its official leverage to secure payment of attorney's fees to a Commissioner's wife, in
her own private lawsuit, should have raised significant red flags to the City Attorney.. .It would
not be unreasonable, in our opinion, for the average person reading the transcripts of the
executive sessions held by the City and without the benefit of a public discussion, to conclude
that the City appeared to be orchestrating their powers to specifically obtain a benefit for
Commissioner and Mrs. Gross."
Eventually a settlement was reached with the City which promised me a full and fair hearing at
the commission meeting of Sept. 9, 2009.1was not able to present my case in the full and fair
manner as promised by the City. In addition, some commissioners expressed support for my
amendment, but found the way it was written to be defective and suggested the drafting of a
new ordinance that they could vote on in good faith.
That never happened. Gongora took office in November, 2009 and promised me he would take
a new look at the ordinance after the commission retreat in January, 2010. After numerous
meetings and promises to bring the issue before the commission, nothing materialized until the
July 12, 2010 meeting with Randy Milliard.
I subsequently filed an application with the Planning Board so that the issue could once again
work its way through the system and eventually come before the commission on its own
merits. The Planning Board voted 5-2 against my petition in September, 2010, but 7-0 to
recommend that the commission study the issue of nudity and alcohol since the ordinance was
outdated and that nudity and alcohol were already prevalent on the Beach.
When the issue came before the Commission at its November, 2010 meeting, more than 40
residents were denied access to the commission by the mayor since she said they could not
speak out since there was no motion to speak in favor of or against. When the issue came
before the commission, no motion was proposed and so the issue died once again.
Gongora kept true to his promise of July - he would not discuss the issue unless I hired his
lobbyist His silence gives evidence of his unsuccessful extortion attempt. He kept his word-if
I did not hire his lobbyist, that was the end of discussion Club Madonna as far as he was
concerned.
Exhibit A
Original Transcripts of the Closed Door Executive Sessions June 8, 2005; July 6, 2005; and
July 27, 2005.
Exhibit B
Report of Investigation and Close Out Memorandum State Attorneys Office
Exhibit C
Letter of Instruction Commission on Ethics
Exhibit D
Affidavit
Witnesses:
Carl Zablotny, 1438 Meridian Ave. #201, Miami Beach, FL 33139; 305-588-0000
KATHERINE FERNANDEZ RUNDLE
STATE A TTO RN EY
STATE ATTORNEY
ELEVEN TH JU D IC IA L C IRC U IT OF FLORIDA
E R. GR A HA M BU ILDIN G
1350 N W 12TH A VE N U E
M IA M I, FLORIDA 33136-2111
FAX COVER SHEET
TELEP HON E (305) 547-0100
T O : Leroy Griffith
FROM : E dward Griffith
Spokesperson, M iami-Dade State A ttorney's O ffice
MESSAGE (if any): Enclosed is the close out memo from Joe Centorino regarding the
matter you brought to our attention
N U M B E R OF PAGES: (including this cover page) 8
N U M B E R DIALED: (305^ 531-9160
D A TE A N D TIM E SEN T: 5/13/08
BY : ED GRIFFITH
IF AN Y PROBLEM S OR QUESTIONS, P LEASE CALL: ED GRIFFITH
AT (305) 547-0535. T H A N K Y OU .
CLOSE OU T M EM O
P R E L IM IN A R Y IN Q U IR Y
P ublic C orruption U nit
A.S.A.: oseph M . C entorino
IN VESTIGATION #: 64-07-82
DATE
JOSE J. A R R O JO Chief Assistant D A TE:
SUBJECT(S): Saul Gross EM PLOY M EN T: M iami Beach C ity commissioner
IN VESTIGATOR: M anuel Diaz
AGEN C Y : M iami-Dade C ommision on Ethics
PHON E:
C RIM E
Exploitation of O fficial Position
A L L EGA TIO N ;
STATUTE
M iami Dade C ounty Code Section 2 M
2-11.1(8)
DEGREE
C ON C LU SION :
This inquiry was opened upon receipt of a letter from A ttorney Daniel Aaronson in February 2006. M r.
A aronson represented C lub M adonna, a M iami Beach nightclub which was involved in litigation with the C ity of M iami
Beach. A ncillary to the suit against the city was a suit filed by the club against the wife of the subject for allegedly
slanderous statements made doing & public meeting regarding C lub M adonna. Aaronson alleged that, in the course of
settlement discussions with the C ity Commission held in executive session, the subject allegedly attempted to condition
the C ity's settlement of the pending suit on the club's payment of attorney's fees incurred by the subject's wife in the
separate but related slander suit.
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It was the opinion of this writer that this matter was properly within the purview of the M mm-O jdaO aifflJ
Ln iE L l and the complaint was referred to that agency. Following f fvestigahon, the attached report was
M ^haer M urawski, Ethics C ommission advocate, in which he concluded O at the subject hadjngaged.m
ate behavior but to the evidence did not warrant the filing of a complaint for violate of the M mim-Dade
C ode of Ethics.
This inquiry is closed,
cc: Jose J. A rrojo
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R E P O R 'l O F I N V E ST I GA T I O N A N D
C L O SE -O U T M E M O R A N D U M
T o: F ile
F rom: M ichael M urawski
A dvocate
R e: C ity of M iami B each/ C lub M adonna
D ate: June 21,2007
C c: R obert M eyers, E xecutive D irector
Sylvia B atista, I nvestigator
M anuel W. D iaz, I nvestigator
Disposition:
U ndoubtedly some C ity of M iami Beach officials improperly intertwined C ity
business with the personal lawsuit pending against C ommissioner Gross's wife and may
have improperly "participated" in C ommission discussions when they stood to be
enhanced by the action of the board'.H ow ever, it would be difficult to sustain an ethics
complaint for the following reasons: 1) the officials acted with apparent full knowledge,
advice and approval of the C ity A ttorneys office and we have generally declined to file
complaints in the past in such situations; and 2) there is some evidence to suggest that the
individual suing the C ity initiated the linkage of the two separate lawsuits. It is also the
intention of this memorandum to advise all municipal counsel to be aware of the possible
implications of violating the C onflict of Interest and C ode of E thics ordinances should
their cities be presented with a similar circumstance.
Background and Investigation:
1) T his investigation was undertaken after the matter was referred to the C O E by Joe
C entorino from the State A ttorney's O ffice (SA O ).
2) L eroy Griffith (Griffith) is the owner of C lub M adonna located on Washington
A venue within the C ity of M iami B each (the C ity). C lub M adonna is an adult
entertainment establishment that provides, among other things, exotic dancing and nude
female entertainers. C oncern was raised that C ity C ommissioner Saul Gross and others
may have exploited their official positions in violation of section 2-11.1 (g) of the
C onflict of Interest and C ode of E thics O rdinance, by improperly interjecting the
1
Section 2-11.1 (d) of the M iami-D ade C ounty C onflict of I nterest and C ode of E thics ordinance states,
impertinent part, that "A ny person included in the term defined in subsection (b) (l) who has any of the
above relationships or who would or might, directly or indirectly, profit or be enhanced by the action of the
B oard of [C ity] C ommissioners shall absent himself or herself from the commission meeting during the
discussion of the subject item and shall not vote or participate in any way in said matter "
payment of a commissioner's wi f e' s at t orney' s fees i nt o negot i at i ons concerning a
lawsui t against the C ity.
3) C ity ordinances 6-40 and 6-41 prohibit t he sale of alcoholic beverages at an
establishment that permits partial or total nudi t y. I n approximately F ebruary 2004,
Griffith, through his attorney, contacted the C ity and advised them that based on new
case law it appeared that these ordinances were li kely unconstitutional. Griffith was
seeking to have the C ity amend their ordinance to allow for the service of alcohol in
establishments with partial or total nudity, such as C lub M adonna.
4) O n M arch 17, 2004, the C ity C ommission considered a resolution to amend
ordinances 6-40 and 6-41. T he motion failed by a vote of 4 to 3. C ommissioners C ru/ ,
Garcia and Steinberg supported amending the ordinance to allow the service of alcohol
however, C ommissioners Gross, B ower, Smith and M ayor D ermer voted against the
amendment
2
. I t should be noted that M rs. Jane Gross, wife of C ommissioner Saul Gross,
appeared at this commission meeting and spoke out against the amendment. A s early as
F ebruary 2004, M rs. Gross
3
had started a campaign of e-mails and phone calls to express
opposition to allowing alcohol to be served at C lub M adonna.
A fter the defeat of the resolution, Griffith's attorney met with C ity officials to discuss the
issue. A ccording to Griffith, the C ity M anager suggested that Griffith file a lawsuit
against them in order to allow them to meet in executive session and discuss the
ordinance. I n A ugust of 2004, Griffith filed a lawsuit against the C ity (the F ederal
lawsuit).
5) M eanwhile, in M ay 2004, Griffith, using a different attorney, filed a lawsuit alleging
libel, slander and defamation against M rs. Jane Gross for some of the comments she
made at the M arch 17, 2004 C ity C ommission meeting and for some of the e-mails she
circulated.
4
6) Griffith's attorney in the libel case had sent a letter to both M rs. Gross and
C ommissioner Gross in M ay of 2004 demanding a retraction of the allegedly libelous
statements and announcing their intention to sue. A s a result of that letter, the C ity /
retained outside counsel, R ichard O velman (O velman), from the law firm Jorden B urt, to
represent C ommissioner Gross in the event the C ommissioner was sued.
7) I n D ecember of 2005, the C ity C ommission authorized a resolution to pay Jorden
B urt $5,316.33 for their successful representation of C ommissioner Saul Gross. T he C ity
deemed the representation of C ommissioner Gross successful because Griffith only filed
^ M ayor D ermer and C ommissioner Smith approved the resolution on its' first reading on January 14, 2004
M s. Gross owns property on Washington A venue not far from where C lub M adonna is located
4
T he C ity maintains that the lawsuit brought against M rs. Gross was, in essence, a sort of "Slapp suit". A
"Slapp suit", which stands for "strategic litigation against public participation", is a device available for
shutting down and intimidating members of the public who voice opposition to a proposed project
T ypically what happens before this kind of suit is filed is that a developer or other applicant seeks
governmental approval for a controversial issue. There is an ensuing rally and outcry by concerned citizens,
in this case, C ommissioner Gross's wife I n order to i nt i mi dat e objectors, the applicant files a "Slapp suit"
suit against M rs. Gross. F ormer C ' U y A ttorney M urray D ubbm (D ubbm adm,tted t hat
den B arfs representation of M rs. Gross was an mev.tablc by-product of then
emescntation of C ommissioner Gross. D ubbin further acknowledged that some oi he
research Jordcn B url did rcgardmg its' representation of C ommissioner Gross was also
applicable to M rs. Gross's defense. Jorden B urt expended a total of 19.8 hours on the
representation of C ommissioner Gross including about 11 hours on research
8) Jorden B urt continued to represent M rs. Gross. I n approximately September
2004 after a hearing before Judge R onald M . F riedman, O velman was successful in
obtaining a dismissal, with prejudice, of the lawsuit against M rs. Gross. A lthough the
lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, two issues remained concerning the Gri ffi t h v. Jane
Gross lawsuit: (i) whether or not Griffith would protract the litigation by filing an appeal
of Judge F riedman's decision and; (ii) whether M rs. Gross would seek payment of her
attorney's fees pursuant to Section 57-105 of the F lorida Statutes. T hus, Griffith's
Federal lawsuit was pending against the C ity while tbesc two issues regarding the Gri ffi t h
v. Jane Gross lawsuit remained unresolved.
9) O n June 8, 2005', July 6, 2005 and Jul y 27, 2005 the C ity held attorney-client
sessions pursuant to section 286.011 (8) / F lorida Statutes, ostensibly to discuss the
pending litigation against the C ity in Griffith' s F ederal lawsuit. Section 286.011(8) ,
F lorida Statutes, entitled "P ublic meetings and records" states, in pertinent part:
"N otwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1) any board
or commission of any state agency or authority or any agency
or authority of any county, municipal corporation, or political
subdivision, and the chief administrative or executive officer
of the governmental entity, may meet in private with the entity's
attorney to discuss pending litigation to which the entity is presently
a party before a court or administrative agency, provided that the
following conditions are met:
(b) T he subject matter of the meeting shall be confined to
settlement negotiations or strategy sessions related to litigation
expenditures." (E mphasis added)
10) ^ I n an interview with C O E investigators D ubbin advised that, to his knowledge, I
the C ity was not involved in the settlement negot i at i ons between Gri f f i t h and M rs Gross J
11) Gary H eld (H eld), an A ssistant C ity A ttorney, provided C O E investigators with
information seemingly contradictory to D ubbin's statement. H eld advised C O E
investigators that he told Griffith's attorney that the C ity's agreement to settle (the
F ederal suit) was contingent on Griffith dismissing the case against M rs. Gross and
paying her attorney's fees. H eld advised that he is in possession of a memorandum
wherein this position is expressed but would not produce it claiming attorney-client
privilege. F urthermore, the current C ity A ttorney, Jose Smith (Smith)
5
, corroborated
sessions were heid
- H eld' s statement t elli ng C O E investigators that "yes, payment of M rs. Gross's legal tees
was a point of negotiation."
12) H eld intimated that it was essentially Gri f f i t h' s suggestion, expressed in a
settlement offer sent to the C ity in M ay of 2005. T he offer consisted of the following: in
order to get the C ity to reconsider the ordinance amendment, Griffith would drop the S
F ederal lawsuit against the C ity and drop his case against M rs. Gross; however M rs.
Gross would be responsible for the payment of her own attorney's fees. I t seems that
Griffith initiated the "linkage" concept by tying in the idea of dropping his lawsuit
against both M rs. Gross and the C ity in order to try and negotiate the amendment to the
ordinance which he was seeking. I t seems though that Griffith made clear from the outset
that paying M rs. Gross's legal fees was not part of his offer.
1 3) D eputy C ity A ttorney Jean O lin (O lin) , advised that D ubbin asked her to research
the issue of whether the C ity could pay the attorney's fees incurred by M rs. Gross. O lin
advised that she researched the issue extensively and concluded that there was "no way"
the C ity could pay M rs. Gross's legal fees H er conclusion was based in part on the fact
that M rs. Gross was being sued m her capacity as a private citizen by Griffith, another
private citizen. She concluded that there was no "nexus" or li nk to C ity business that
would permit the C ity to pay M rs. Gross's legal bi lls.
14) I t is plausible to argue that since the Griffith v. Jane Gross lawsuit was deemed not to
be C ity business, her lawsuit and the resolution of the payment of her legal fees should
not have been discussed by the C ity C ommission in executive session, exempting the
public hearing requirement.
is somewhat understandable; however, that the issue of M rs. Gross's legal fees
ight have come up in the executive session since Griffith was offering to dismiss the
F ederal L awsuit as part of a "package deal" he was attempting to strike with the C ity.
T he troubling aspect of this case is whether the C ity inappropriately attempted to wrest
payment of M rs. Gross's legal fees from Griffith by conditioning their payment on
resolving the lawsuit between Griffith and the C ity. Since the C ity knew, through M s. /
O lin's research and opinion that the C ity could not simply outright pay M rs. Gross's legal
fees, it seems all most certain that the C ity raised the idea with Griffith.
16) T here is little doubt that the issue of having Griffith pay M rs. Gross's attorney's fees
was discussed during at least some of the executive sessions in question T he C ity admits
as much. I n addition, former C ity C ommissioner L ouis Garcia (Garcia) advised C O E
investigators that he was present during two of the executive sessions and the payment of
M rs. Gross's legal expenses was discussed. Garcia confirmed that H eld was used as a
messenger to convey the C ommission's proposal.
1 7) A lthough "Slapp suits" are nothing new, this case presents a unique situation because
it involves a "Slapp suit" brought against a C ommissioner's wife. T he uniqueness of the
situation should have prompted the C ity A ttorney's office to exercise a heightened degree
of caution and be more prudent in their decision to permit their C ommissioners to link the
payment of legal fees to a C ity C ommissioner's wife as a condition of resolving a lawsuit
against the C ity. A ny discussion wherein the C ity would attempt to use its' official
leverage to secure payment of attorneys fees to a C ommissioner's wife, in her own
private lawsuit, should have raised sigm l i cant red flags prompting the C ity A ttorney to
- ' 'advise the C ommission that, at best, such a discussion raised an appearance ot
,,-npropriety shielding that discussion behind the guise of an executive session
C ommission meeting, outside the public's eye, really only served to make matters look
worse. M oreover, M rs. Gross had a remedy available to collect her legal fees I rom
Griffith.
1 8) T he evidence suggests that the C ommission realized that they did not want the issue
of M rs. Gross's legal fees to be a public issue. A t the D ecember 2005 C ity C ommission
meeting where Griffith attempted to get his ordinance amendment back on the
C ommissions agenda, C ommissioner C ruz made mention of the "pink elephant" in the^
room that no one wanted to discuss. I t is reasonable to believe that the "pink elephant"
referred to was the payment of M rs. Gross's legal fees.
19) U ltimately, M rs. Gross and Griffith settled their lawsuit. I n fact, the settlement
agreement contained a general release; Griffith and C lub M adonna released
C ommissioner and M rs Gross whi l e C ommi ssi oner and M rs Gross granted a general
release to Griffith and C lub M adonna. T he settlement agreement essentially made M rs.
Gross responsible for her own attorney's fees. Griffith signed the settlement agreement
on June 9, 2005, one day after the C ity held its' first executive session. C ommissioner
Gross signed the agreement on June 30, 2005. T hus, it is evident that C ommissioner
i Gross knew that the settlement agreement called for his wife to be responsible for her
I own attorney's fees during the July 6, 2005 and July 27, 2005 executive sessions.
20) I t is difficult to imagine that the C ity C ommission would have negotiated so
I strenuously to recover attorney's fees had the litigant in the "Slapp suit" not been married
I to a C ity C ommissioner. T he appearance of impropriety created in this case is evident. _ U _
is^no^wonder the C i^y^refused to release even those limited pojrtions^f the executive
sessions transcript wherein they aH mft payment ofKfrs? Gros^slegal fee^waT discussed ,
W
|21) T he A dvocate consulted with the SA O regarding the possible violation of Section
I 286.01 1 (8) of the F lorida Statutes. T he SA O advised that since it appeared that the C ity * ,
A ttorney's office allowed, if not invited, discussion of the Griffith v. Jane Gross lawsuit
during the executive sessions, it would not pursue any action against any individual
I commissioner.
>
^ 22) I n conclusion, it appears very likely that C ommi ssi oner Gross, along with other
C ity C ommissioners, engaged in wholly inappropriate behavior by linking and
conditioning the payment of M rs. Gross's legal fees to the settlement negotiations
> between Griffith and the C ity. I t would be no less inapt but is extremely doubtful, that
^ - the C ity would have attempted to secure payment of 1 egal fees for any other citizen
victim of a Slapp suit being sued by an individual who was also suing the C ity
? T he evidence suggests that the C ity A ttorney allowed the C ity C ommission to push their
I collegial bonds over the ethical line.
I
I
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AGE 02
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LETTER OF IN STRU C TION
To: The C ity of M iami Beach
From: The M iami-Dado C ounty C ommission on Ethics and P ublic Trust
Re: C fty of M iami Beach/ C lub M adonna C OS-16
D ate: January 29,2009
O n D ecember 3,2008, the Etibics Commission held a hearing on this
matter for the purpose of making a probable cause determination. A t the
conclusion of the hearing a motion co find probable cause resulted in a 2-2
tie, thus the motion to find probable cause failed and the case was dismissed.
However, the C ommission determined that the dismissal should be
accompanied by a Letter of Instruction,
Wherefore, the M iami-Dade C ounty C ommission on Ethics and
P ublic Trust hereby issues this Letter of Instruction,
The history of this case is rather long and involved. The salient fects
are these:
-Leroy Griffith (Griffith) is the owner of C lub M adonna located
within the C ity of M iami Beach (the C ity). C lub M adonna is an adult
entertainment establishment that provides, among other things, exotic
dancing and nude female entertainers.
-M iami Beech. C ity Code sections 6-40 and 6-41 prohibit the sale of
alcoholic beverages at an establishment that permits partial or total nudity.
In approximately F ebruary 2004, Griffith, through his attorney, contacted
the C ity and advised them that based on new case law it appeared that these
ordinances were likely uaconstitutianal. Griffith -was seeking to have the
C ity amend its ordinance to allow for the serving of alcohol in
establishments with partial or total nudity, such as C lub M adonna.
-On M arch 17,2004, the C ity Commission considered a resolution to
amend ordinances 6-40 and 6-41. The motion felled by a vote of 4 to 3.
C ommissioners C ruz, Garcia and Steinberg supported amending the
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ordinance to allow the serving of alcohol however, C ommissioners Gross,
Bower, Smr& and M ayor Dernier voted against the amendment
1
. It should
be noted that M rs. Jane Gross, wife of Commissioner Saul Gross, appeared
at tbis commission, meeting and spoke out against the amendment As early
as F ebruary 2004., M rs. Gross
2
bad started a canrpaign of e-mails and phone
calls to express opposition to allowing alcohol to be served at C lub
M adonna,
-In approximately M ay 2004, Griffim filed a lawsuit alleging libel,
slander and defamation against M rs. Jane Gross for some of the comments
she made at the M arch 17, 2004 C ity C ommission meeting and for some of
the e-mails she circulated.
3
-Griffith's attorney in the libel case seat a letter to born Mrs. Gross
and C ommissioner Gross in M ay of 2004 demanding a tetraction of the
allegedly Ijbelous statements and announcing their intention, to sue. A s a
result of that letter, the C ity retained outside counsel, Richard Ovehnea
(Ovelmen), from the lav firm Jorden B urt, to represent Commissioner Gross
in the event the C ommissioner was sued
- In December of 2005, the C ity Commission authorized a resolution
to pay Jordeai B urt $5,31633 for its successful representation of
C ommissioner Saul Gross. The C ity paid mis sum, having deemed the
representation of C ommissioner Gross successful because, after reviewing
Ovelmen's legal argument negating any liability on me part of
CoOTcnissioner Gross, Griffith only filed suit against M rs. Gross and chose
not t pursue a claim against C ommissioner Gross.
-Griffith filed suit against IwJJrs. Jane Gross and Jorden B urt continued
to represent her. In approximately September 2004, after a hearing before
Judge Ronald M , Friedman, Ovelmen was successful in obtaining a
dismissal, with prejudice, of the lawsuit against M rs. Gross. A lthough the
lawsuit was dismissed tvhh prejudice, two issues remained concerning the
Griffith v, Jane Gross lawsuit: (i) whether or not Griffith would protract the
litigation by seeking a rehearing and filing an appeal of Judge F riedman's
decision and; (ii) whether M rs. Gross would seek payment of her attorney's
fees pursuant to Section 57-105 of me Florida Statutes. Griffiths Federal
z M V? D enner 1 C ommJasicoer Smith Approved thus resolution on to' first wadtog on Janomy 14.2004.
M S. Grass owns property < m Washington Avemia not for from whew C lub M adonna is located.
SDIHI3 N Q N O I SSI WWC O
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lawsuit, challenging the oonstitutioaality of the C ity's fto alcoJsol ordinance
was pending against the C hy while 1hese two issues regarding the Griffith v.
Jane Gross lawsuit remained, unresolved.
On June 8,2005, July 6,2005 and July 27,2005 tiie C ity held
attorney-client sessions pursuantto section 2B6.011 (8), Florida Statutes, to
discuss the pending litigation against tbuo C ity in Griffith's Federal lawsuit,
- D uring these closed, attorney-client sessions* some C ommissioners
expressed concern that negotiating with Griffith to resolve his claim against
the C ity would create the appearance mat his lawsuit against Jane Gross had
coerced the C ity to engage in those negotiations. In an effort to alley that
concern, C hy A ttorney M urray D ubbin suggested that the Commissioners
consider asking Griffith to pay the attorney fees that Jane Gross had incurred
before any negotiation with the C ity concerning the pending Griffith v. the
C ity lawsuit went forward. A n Assistant C hy A ttorney communicated with
Griffith's lawyar concerning the issue of Griffith paying Jane Gross' legal
fees,
-Griffith refbsed to pay Jane Gross' attorney's fees. U ltimately, M rs.
Gross settled her lawsuit with Griffith agreeing to be responsible for hear own
attorney's jfees. Griffith dismissed M s lawsuit against M fcs. Gross with
prejudice.
Leroy Griffith/ C lub M adonna also filed an Ethics C omplaint alleging
that C ity of M ataii Beach Commissioner Saul Gross violated section 2-11.1
(d) of the C onflict of Interest and Code of Ethics ordinance (voting conflict)
and along with the test of the C ity Commissioners named in the complaint
violated section 2-1 l(g) of tiie C onflict of Interest and Code of Ethics
ordinance entitled exploitation of official position.
Section 2-11 ,l(d) states, in pertinent part:
" [N]Q person included in ihe terms defined in Subsection (bXI ) shall
vote on or participate in any way in any matter presented to the [City
C ommission].. .tvho wotiid or might, directly or indirectly, profit or be
enhanced by me action of the [City C ommission]
Section 2-11.1 (g) states, in pertinent pan-
N o person,. .shall use or attempt to use his official position to secure
special privileges or exemptions for himself or others...
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The complaint filed by Griffith contained no fectual allegations of its
own. Instead, Griffith attached a memorandum prepared by the Ethics
C ommission's Advocate which explained why the Advocate himself
declined to file a complaint against the respondents.
4
The complaint alleged
that the respondents exploited their official position when they discussed the
Leroy Griffin v, Jane Gross lawsuit in executive session; that they used or
attempted to use their official positions to a negotiate a strategy, free from
public scrutiny, that interjected C ity A ttorneys into the private lawsuit
between Jane Gross and Leroy Griffith for the specific purpose of
benefiting Jane Gross.
The C ity has consistently maintained that the lawsuit that Griffith
brought against M rs. Gross was frivolous and only instituted against her in
order to bring pressure against Commissioner Saul Gross to persuade him to
change his vote on the ordinance change Griffith was seeking. P ayment of
M rs. Gross's legal fees was a point of negotiation as far as the C ity was
concerned. Respondents maintain mat they did nothing improper; that Leroy
Griffith's lawsuit against Jane Gross was totally fiivolous and nothing more
than an attempt by Griffith to exert pressure on C ommissioner Gross and the
C ity to pressure them to concede to his ordinance amendment.
There is not much dispute about the facts of this particular case.
C omplainant alleges, however, that those facts reveal that the C ity and
Respondents in particular, tried to extort him into paying M rs. Jane Gross's
legal bills as a condition of having the C ity entertain his attempt to amend
C ity ordinance 6-40 and (M i regarding the sale of alcohol at establishments
that permit partial or total nudity.
A fter hearing the arguments of the C ity and of the Advocate, this
Commission could not reach a consensus as to probable cause, thus a finding
of no probable cause was entered wiHi respect to respondents C ruz, Gross
and Smith . We did, however, feel that a Letter of Instruction should be
issued mat focuses on the feet that extraordinary caution should be exercised
whenever a local legislative body considers using its powers when they are
confronted with a perceived assault on one of their family members or the
integrity of HM S legislative body itself.
The Ethics ComraJssiira 's Advocate had investigated the identical issues raised La flic C omplaint
B ppraxlraaidy one yw prior to die C omplaint being filed. in M s Swat 21,2007 "Close-Out M wmwmdum"
fee Commission's Advocate concluded that under the fees presented:". ..ft would be difficult to sustain an
eiflies complain!..."
lU lf
C
SS!S
ioI
L
did mi
*
f
'
B
"""fewws GM&LS of no probable cause as Respondent M umy D nWrto.
Earlier die BOics Coanadsam dismissed the complwni an to Respondents Bower. Dernier. Held and
GftttXRlKT ftft ftirff trim j*T*4lik AA**L**4
Gonzalez on motion of the Advocate.
JL0/SS 3EKM SOIW3 NO NDISS1WWCO iZ06iSS8E ?S!0T GBBZ/EB^B
82/ 02/ 2009 17:19 3855319160 C M A D O N N A p
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fab 02 09 11 ;03a ,
As stated previously, the -uniqueness of the situation i.e. that a
Commissioner' s wife was involved in litigation with, the same person who
was suing me C ity, should have prompted the C ity A ttorney's O ffice to
exercise a heightened degree of caution. Any discussion wherein it might
even appear that 1ne C ity would attempt to use to official leverage to secure
payment of attorneys fees to a C ommissioner's wife, in her own private
lawsuit, should nave raised significant red flags to the C ity A ttorney.
The fact that consideration of the strategy suggested by the C ity
A ttorney took place in an executive session C ommission meeting, outside
the public's eye, created an additional risk that the strategy would be
naisperceived by the public. P ublically explaining to the citizen's of M iami
Beach how the Commission felt about Griffith's alleged pressure tactics, in
retrospect, would have been the better course of action to pursue irrespective
of whether such comae of action was legally required,
A lthough the C ity A ttorney suggested the strategy, the C ity
Commissioners themselves, especially Commissioner Gross, should have
been concerned that if they successfully used their official power to persuade
Griffith to make a direct payment of money to M rs. Gross, that action could
easily be perceived by the public as inappropriate unless folly and fairly
explained to the public and Griffith himself. The C ity must keep in mind mat
actions which may themselves be perfectly legal and ethical are subject to
fB tationwhmJoot publicly explained We define ethics as knowing
the difference between what you have a right to do and what is the right
thingtodo.
In our opinion, ethical behavior is quite simply the doing of what is
right, what is good. In the realm of public governance that generally means
doing what is in the best interests of the citizenry. This should be a simple
task. It should not require the burdensome interpretation of legalese or
engaging in, lengthy analysis in order to discern what is being done for the
"public" good or what might be being done for a personal or private good.
It would not be unseasonable, in our opinion, for the average person reading
the transcripts of the executive sessions held by the C ity and without the
benefit of a public discussionj to conclude mat the C ity appeared to be
orchestrating their powers to specifically obtain a benefit for Cottunissioner
and M rs. Gross.
8/ 90 3SKW SOIH13 N O N OISSIWWOO e0GSS8E tt'.Ql 60B Z/ e0/ Z0
02/-B2/280. 9 17:19
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3055319160
C MADONNA
PAGE 07
P'
While we understand and accept as valid the predicament the C ity
found itself in because of the lawsuit filed against a Commissioner's wife;
we are compelled to reiterate once again that it is so often the mere
appearance of impropriety that shakes the public's trust in their elected
officials.
Since the C ity was confronted with such a unique situation (i.e. being
involved in litigation with a party the C ity felt was exerting unfeir leverage
on them by suing a C ommissioner's wife) the C ity should have beea on
heightened alert to ensure ft did not use or even appear to use its' power
{Rid/or resources to bring a personal benefit to a particular Commissioner
and his wrfe. If in fact ihe C ity wanted to "send the message" to the public
that it would not tolerate being "blackmailed" by Griffith's guerilla tactic
lawsuit against Jane Gross; it would have been much more effective to
follow a course of action that was as transparent and open to the public as
possible. Indeed, it is our instruction that should such a situation ever arise
again every effort should be made to keep the separate litigations separate;
they should not be intertwined at all.
In the end, this Commission was itself deadlocked by a 2 to 2 vote as
to whether probable cause existed to sustain this complaint or not as to
Respondents C ruz, Gross and Smith. Obviously, Ethics Commission
members were swayed by the persuasive arguments of the dry. There ia BO
doubt mat the C ity believed it was justified in doing what it did and acted
appropriately in dealing with me Jane Gross lawsuit
We hope this Letter of Instruction impresses upon the C ity of M iami
Beach as well as all governments subject to our jurisdiction, that they must
be mindful fihat their own best interests and those of their citizens are best
served by open, honest and transparent governance regardless of whether it
is "legally" or "ethically" required
M oreover, we again remind me C ity that me Ethics Commission is
always available to provide opinions and guidance to elected and appointed
officials and government employees. Had the C ity presented this matter to
us before taking the actions they chose to take they might well have
prevented many of the problems this entire situation has created.
BOIH13 NO NQISSIWWOO
State of Florida
County of Miami Dade
BEFORE ME, the undersigned Notary, 'PWo..- ~ r O\::i
[name of Notary before whom affidavit is sworn], on this 7 [day of month] day of
__-"3..... [month], 2011, personally appeared Carl Zablotny, [name of affiant], known to me to
be a credible person and of lawful age, who being by me first duly sworn, on his oath, deposes and says:
I, Cart Zablotny, affirm that I was present during a meeting at approximately 2 p.m. on the 12
th
day of July,
2010 between Leroy Griffith (owner of ClUb Madonna) and Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Gongora.
Also present at that meeting was a well-known Miami Beach lobbyist, Randy Hilliard. I affirm that Leroy
Griffith informed me that the subject of such meeting was to ascertain that Commissioner Michael Gongora
was going to bring up the issue of serving liquor at Club Madonna as Commissioner Gongora had previously
promised Mr. GriffITh. I aiso affirm that I was present during several meetings -- including one in Mr. Griffith's
office and one in Commissioner Gongora's office .- at which Commissioner Gongora promised Mr. Griffith
that he would definitely bring this issue before the commissioners, but he had not done so for more than six
months. The presence and purpose of Mr. Hilliard at this luncheon meeting was unknown to both Mr. Griffith
and myself.
I also affirm that on June 9 during the commission meeting that I personally spoke on behalf of Mr. Griffith's
proposed ordinance after which Commissioner Gongora congratulated me and promised that he would
"definitely bring up the issue at the next commission meeting, no matter what." The next commission meeting
was scheduled for July 14 and that was the reason for the meeting with Mr. Gongora scheduled for July 12.
During the luncheon meeting of July 12, I affirm that Mr. Gongora presented Mr. Griffith with a proposal. Mr.
Gongora said that he needed to do more "research" as to where other commissioners stood on the issue. He
wanted Mr. Griffith to hire Mr. Hilliard to do that research.
A heated argument e n s ~ e d during which Mr. Griffith informed Commissioner Gongora that he didn't need
any further research and would not hire Mr. Hilliard. Commissioner Gongora abruptly stated that if he did not
hire Mr. Hilliard, he would not bring up the issue and that this was the end of the discussion about Club
Madonna. I affirm that Mr. Griffith did not hire Mr. Hilliard and subsequently Commissioner Gongora did not
bring the issue before the Miami Beach City Commission.
At the july 14
th
meeting of the city commission, I affirm that I spoke during the open-forum 'Sutnick Hour" in
favor of Mr. Griffith's situation and stated that I was appalled by Commissioner Gongora's behavior just two
, .
days previous to this commission meeting, I informed the commission of the Randy Hilliard incident with Mr,
Griffith and that Commissioner Gongora tried to get Me. Griffith to hire Me. Hilliard in exchange for just
bringing up the amendment issue before the commission, I was then chastised by the mayor, Matti Bower,
for bringing Commissioner Gongora into the conversation about Me. Griffith's concerns, Me. Griffith's issue
was never discussed again.
[signature of affiant) \

nted name of
[set forth affiant's statement of facts)

I </J'iJ Ih VU0 "41'1 I
[address of affiant, line 1)
tnffl-fI1,l 13 EA-ut rL dJ l;j '1
[address of affiant, line 2) I
Stale of Florida ILo.. C?
County of /"tJi'T"J I 13 4-Q
Sworn to (or affirmed) and subscribed before me this r 1'I-,day of mAflu-l-, Mll (year), by
________________(name of person making statement),
Public)
Personally Known ./' OR Produced Identification J)riVel' I..i...
Type of Identification Produced DriVel J...ic..:#= 2,143# 115-f>1-;.lif--
0
Dharam Me"araj
1820
MAW,2014
WWW.AARONNOT;f\Ycom
Club Madonna
1527 Washington Ave. Miami Beach, Florida 33139
office@clubmadonna.com 305-534-2000
The Florida Bar
651 E. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399
March 14, 2011
Please find attached a revised complaint that I just filed last week with the
Florida Bar regarding attorney Michael Gongora.
I am sorry for the inconvenience, but additional, recent information needed to be
included in the complaint. There are an additional two pages attached as an
addendum to the original complaint.
Thank you for your consideration in this matter.
Leroy Griffith
Owner, Club Madonna
.V.OR/0,
RECEIVED
M A R 1 5 2011
A CA P
Club M adonna
1 5 27 Washington A ve.
M iami Beach, Florida 331 39
office@clubmadonna.com 305 -5 34-2000
A ttorney: M ichael Gongora
Specific thing or things I am complaining about:
M ichael Gongora, Esq. ("Gongora"), City Commissioner, M iami Beach,
conspired to extort me, Leroy Griffith, owner of Club M adonna, into hiring a
well-known lobbyist in order to hear an issue Gongora had been promising
me for seven months that he would present to the full City of M iami Beach
commission.
If I did not hire this lobbyist, Randy M illiard, Gongora would be effectively
barring me from appearing before the commission to present a proposed
amendment to an ordinance that has been the subject of controversy since
2004, when it passed by a 5 -2 commission vote and was subsequently
defeated upon its second reading 4-3 due to the interference and unethical
behavior of Jane Gross, the wife of then-commissioner Saul Gross.
A t this time I believe Gongora is guilty of extreme misconduct as both an
attorney and public official. I am alleging that Gongora engaged in
behaviors that he knew were against the Florida Rules Regulating the
Florida Bar, exhibiting dishonesty, deceit, misrepresentation, and fraud. He
blatantly breached the public trust in the fair administration of justice
through his attempted extortion efforts.
A s a lawyer who holds public office, he should be held to even higher
standards -1 believe that he abused his public position for personal gain,
which is in direct violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
(Rule 4-8.4 M isconduct)
"A lawyer shall not:
(a) violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct,
knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of
another;
(b) commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty,
trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects;
(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or
misrepresentation;
(d) engage in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is
prejudicial to the administration of justice, including to knowingly, or
through callous indifference, disparage, humiliate, or discriminate against
litigants, jurors, witnesses, court personnel, or other lawyers on any basis,
including, but not limited to, on account of race, ethnicity, gender, religion,
national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, age,
socioeconomic status, employment, or physical characteristic;
(e) state or imply an ability to influence improperly a government agency or
official;
Gongora and I had a meeting at approximately 2 p.m. on the 12th day of
July, 201 0. A lso present at that meeting was a well-known M iami Beach
lobbyist, Randy M illiard and my public relations and marketing manager,
Carl Zablotny. The subject of such meeting was to make sure that
Commissioner Gongora was going to bring up the issue of serving liquor
at Club M adonna at the July 1 4, 201 0 commission meeting. We had
previously met on several other occasions - including one in my office
and one in Commissioner Gongora's office - during which time
Commissioner Gongora promised me that he would definitely bring this
issue before the commissioners, but he had not done so for more than six
months. The presence and purpose of M r. M illiard at this meeting was
unknown to me.
During the luncheon meeting of July 1 2 Gongora presented me with a
proposal. Gongora said that he needed to find out where other
commissioners stood on the issue. He wanted me to hire M r. M illiard to do
that research.
A heated argument ensued during which I informed Gongora that he didn't
need any further research and that I would not hire M r. M illiard. A ll I wanted
Gongora to do was put the issue on the agenda and let the commissioners
vote; then I could find out which commissioners were telling me the truth
and which were not. A ll I wanted was a fair vote; an up or down vote.
Commissioner Gongora abruptly stated that if I did not hire M r. M illiard, he
would not bring up the issue and that this was the end of the discussion
about Club M adonna. I did not hire M r. M illiard and subsequently
Commissioner Gongora did not bring the issue before the M iami Beach
City Commission.
A t the July 14th meeting of the city commission Carl Zablotny spoke during
the open-forum "Sutnick Hour" in favor of my situation and stated that he
was appalled by Commissioner Gongora's behavior just two days previous
to this commission meeting. He informed the commission of the Randy
M illiard incident with myself and that Commissioner Gongora tried to get
me to hire M r. M illiard in exchange for just bringing up the amendment
issue before the commission. He was then chastised by the mayor, M atti
Bower, for bringing Commissioner Gongora into the conversation about
my concerns. M y issue was never discussed again.
The background of this event as follows will put this entire complaint in
context. In 2003 my lawyers proposed an amendment to a M iami Beach
ordinance to allow my club, which offers total nudity as part of its
entertainment, to serve alcohol. The serving of alcohol along with total
nudity in any establishment is prohibited in the City of M iami Beach by
Chapter 6 of the Code of the City of M iami Beach, "A lcoholic Beverages"
and Chapter 6-40 "Total Nudity and Sexual Conduct Prohibited."
In January, 2004 the ordinance easily passed 5 -2. Then it failed at the
second reading M arch 17, 2004 4-3 after Jane Gross led an e-mail and
phone campaign against me and the ordinance. She publically stated a
number of untruths about my club and me to the point where my lawyers
asked for a retraction. When we did not receive the retraction I sued Jane
Gross for libel, slander, and defamation of character.
The City M anager, Jorge Gonzalez, and the Director of Planning, Jorge
Gomez, suggested to me and my lawyer at a meeting in the manager's
office, shortly after the M arch 1 7, 2004 vote, that we should sue the city so
that they could consider a settlement of the matter in closed, executive
sessions. In M ay, 2004 I filed the lawsuit against Jane Gross and then in
A ugust, 2004,1 filed a federal lawsuit against the city.
Instead of resolving the issues and agreeing to a proposed settlement, the
commissioners only conspired how to get me to drop my lawsuits and pay
attorneys fees before they would even talk to me or grant me access to the
commission to hear my proposal. Only in exchange for dropping the
lawsuits with prejudice and paying the fees would the commissioners hear
me.
The closed executive sessions took place on June 8, 2005 , July 6, 2005 ,
and July 27, 2005 and attended by M ayor David Dermer along with
commissioners M atti Bower, Simon Cruz, Luis Garcia, Saul Gross, Jose
Smith, and Richard Steinberg. A lso in attendance were City A ttorney
M urray Dubbin, City M anager Jorge Gonzalez, Deputy City A ttorney Don
Papy, First A ssistant City A ttorney Gary Held, and Senior A ssistant City
A ttorney Roberto Datorre.
Dermer boasted at these meetings that the "merits" of my proposed
amendment to the City ordinance did not matter to him. It was the fact that I
was suing the wife of a commissioner that mattered. It was a "family"
matter that needed to be cleared up first.
"I really don't like the fact that somebody through litigation is going to try
to use that as a wedge to intimidate, especially against the family member
of a particular commissioner...No matter what the rights or wrongs or the
merits of the issue, I just don't like that. It just doesn't sit well with me and I
wanted to express it to you."
City A ttorney M urray Dubbin made a suggestion not to even talk to me until
I dropped my lawsuits and paid attorneys fees. Everyone agreed to this
proposition.
"M ay I make a suggestion?" he said. "...What would you think of our
returning to the attorney [M r. Griffith's legal counsel] and saying look, we
are not going to talk to you about anything else until you first dismiss that
case and perhaps pay the attorneys fees that are being incurred." (Exhibit
A , June 8, page 9).
I refused to pay the $30,000 in attorney's fees and the commission rejected
any possible settlement and did not allow me access to the commission
after that point.
A complaint was filed with the State A ttorney's Office (SA O) in February,
2006. A fter investigation, the SA O referred the case to the County
Commission on Ethics (COE).
The report from the SA O and the COE confirmed what was implied at the
Dec. 5 , 2005 Commission meeting. "It is reasonable to believe that the 'pink
elephant' referred to was the payment of M rs. Gross's legal fees," the
report said.
The report also stated that A ssistant City A ttorney Gary Held and
Commissioners Jose Smith and Luis Garcia admitted to the COE that "the
City's agreement to settle (the Federal suit) was contingent on Griffith's
dismissing the case against M rs. Gross and paying her attorney's
fees...yes payment of M rs. Gross's legal fees was a point of negotiation."
"Undoubtedly, some City of M iami Beach officials improperly intertwined
City business with the personal lawsuit pending against Commissioner
Gross's wife and may have improperly 'participated' in Commission
discussions when they stood to be enhanced by the action of the board...In
conclusion, it appears very likely that Commissioner Gross, along with
other City Commissioners, engaged in wholly inappropriate behavior by
linking and conditioning the payment of M rs. Gross's legal fees to the
settlement negotiations between Griffith and the City...The evidence
suggests that the City A ttorney allowed the City Commission to push their
collegia! bonds over the ethical line," the report explained.
The final outside action came with a decision from the COE which heard
the case Dec. 3, 2008.They felt so strongly about the irregularities in this
case that they sent a "letter of instruction" to the City of M iami Beach Jan.
29, 2009 that concluded that "extraordinary caution should be exercised
whenever a local legislative body considers using its powers when they are
confronted with a perceived assault on one of their family members or the
integrity of the legislative body itself...any discussion wherein it might
even appear that the City would attempt to use its official leverage to
secure payment of attorney's fees to a Commissioner's wife, in her own
private lawsuit, should have raised significant red flags to the City
A ttorney...It would not be unreasonable, in our opinion, for the average
person reading the transcripts of the executive sessions held by the City
and without the benefit of a public discussion, to conclude that the City
appeared to be orchestrating their powers to specifically obtain a benefit
for Commissioner and M rs. Gross."
Eventually a settlement was reached with the City which promised me a full
and fair hearing at the commission meeting of Sept. 9, 2009.1 was not able
to present my case in the full and fair manner as promised by the City. In
addition, some commissioners expressed support for my amendment, but
found the way it was written to be defective and suggested the drafting of a
new ordinance that they could vote on in good faith.
That never happened. Gongora took office in November, 2009 and
promised me he would take a new look at the ordinance after the
commission retreat in January, 201 0. A fter numerous meetings and
promises to bring the issue before the commission, nothing materialized
until the July 1 2, 201 0 meeting with Randy M illiard.
I subsequently filed an application with the Planning Board so that the
issue could once again work its way through the system and eventually
come before the commission on its own merits. The Planning Board voted
5 -2 against my petition in September, 201 0, but 7-0 to recommend that the
commission study the issue of nudity and alcohol since the ordinance was
outdated and that nudity and alcohol were already prevalent on the Beach.
When the issue came before the Commission at its November, 2010
meeting, more than 40 residents were denied access to the commission by
the mayor since she said they could not speak out since there was no
motion to speak in favor of or against. When the issue came before the
commission, no motion was proposed and so the issue died once again.
Gongora kept true to his promise of July - he would not discuss the issue
unless I hired his lobbyist. His silence gives evidence of his unsuccessful
extortion attempt. He kept his word - if I did not hire his lobbyist, that was
the end of discussion Club M adonna as far as he was concerned.
Exhibit A
Original Transcripts of the Closed Door Executive Sessions June 8, 2005 ;
July 6, 2005 ; and July 27, 2005 .
Exhibit B
Report of Investigation and Close Out M emorandum State A ttorneys Office
Exhibit C
Letter of Instruction Commission on Ethics
Exhibit D
A ffidavit
Witnesses:
Carl Zablotny, 1438 M eridian A ve. #201 , M iami Beach, FL 331 39; 305 -5 88-
0000
A DDENDUM ;
A s I was about to send this complaint to the Florida Bar, irregularities
continued to take place, so I delayed filing the original complaint for a few
days.
On M onday, M arch 7,1 received a call from former M ayor of M iami Beach,
A lex Daoud, who told me that lobbyist Randy M illiard had called him to
explain that he did not want to fight with me anymore, and that he held no
animosity toward me and wanted to be friends again. M ayor Daoud said
that M illiard wanted to "make peace" with me. M illiard suggested to M ayor
Daoud that the both of us meet. I refused since I did not trust him and
because of the previous "extortion" attempt. I thought that was the end of
it.
However, later that afternoon, I received another call from Rachel M alak,
the wife of former M iami Beach Commissioner Joe M alak. She also
informed me that Randy M illiard had contacted her. She said that M illiard
informed her that he was lining up votes from city commissioners in favor
of granting me a liquor license. She said that M illiard had said he had
spoken to Commissioner M ichael Gongora and that he was in agreement to
place the issue on the commission agenda for the A pril meeting. The
placement of the issue on the ballot was supposed to have taken place
Wednesday, M arch 9. M illiard is playing an active role in Commissioner
Deede Weithorn and Commissioner Ed Tobin's re-election campaign.
I spoke with my lawyer, Daniel A aronson, who informed me not to make
any "quid-pro-quo" agreement with any party, but to just listen to what they
had to say. If the issue was placed on the agenda by Commissioner
Gongora independently, I was fully aware that I would then have to quash
my complaint against Commissioner Gongora since the issue would no
longer be of the "extortion" nature I explained in the original complaint. I
was willing to see where the situation was leading.
A gain, I was highly suspicious of the supposed actions of M r. M illiard,
indicating that I did not want to meet with him, so as to unnecessarily
complicate this issue. If his client, Commissioner Gongora, wanted to
place the liquor issue on the agenda, so be it. But I was not going to
immerse myself again in the issue for fear of impropriety. Even though my
complaint against Commissioner Gongora might be less severe in scope, it
was still highly unethical and indicated unprofessional behavior, in my
opinion.
By the end of the day on Thursday, M arch 1 1 , the issue was not placed on
the agenda as everyone indicated it would be, therefore I more strongly
than ever believe that this was just another ruse to convince me not to file
a bar complaint or Florida Elections complaint against Commissioner
Gongora, on the part of lobbyist Randy M illiard, the party involved in the
original extortion attempt. Who was telling the truth and not telling the
truth in this situation is very difficult to ascertain; therefore I leave it in the
Florida Bar's hands to determine, in a professional manner, what rules
were actually violated on the part of the lawyer involved, M ichael Gongora.
A nd just for your information, I would like to inform your office that I have
filed a complaint with the State of Florida Elections Commission against
M ichael Gongora as well. He failed to report $3,000 in contributions I made
to his election campaign in November, 2009. He indicated that it was just
an "oversight" that those checks were never reported on his required
financial statements. There were obvious, blatant violations of law in those
incidents.
Witnesses:
A lex Daoud
Rachel M alak


THE FLORIDA BAR


JOHN F. HARKNESS, JR.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
651 EAST JEFFERSON STREET
TALLAHASSEE, FL 32399-2300


850/561-5600
WWW.FLORIDABAR.ORG

March 21, 2011

Mr. Michael Christian Gongora
Becker & Poliakoff P A
121 Alhambra Cir Fl 10
Coral Gables, FL 33134-4540

Re: Leroy Griffith; The Florida Bar File No. 2011-70,952 (11B)

Dear Mr. Gongora:

Enclosed is a copy of an inquiry/complaint and any supporting documents submitted by the above
referenced complainant(s). Your response to this complaint is required under the provisions of Rule 4-
8.4(g), Rules of Professional Conduct of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, and is due in our office by
April 4, 2011. Responses should not exceed 25 pages and may refer to any additional documents or
exhibits that are available on request. Failure to provide a written response to this complaint is in itself a
violation of Rule 4-8.4(g). You are further requested to furnish the complainant with a complete
copy of your written response, including any documents submitted therewith.

Please note that pursuant to Rule 3-7.1(b), Rules of Discipline, any reports, correspondence, papers,
recordings and/or transcripts of hearings received from either you or the complainant(s) shall become a
part of the public record in this matter and thus accessible to the public upon a disposition of this file. It
should be noted that The Florida Bar is required to acknowledge the status of proceedings during the
pendency of an investigation, if a specific inquiry is made and the matter is deemed to be in the public
domain. Pursuant to Rule 3-7.1(f), Rules of Discipline, you are further required to complete and return
the enclosed Certificate of Disclosure form.

Finally, the filing of this complaint does not preclude communication between the attorney and the
complainant(s). Please review the enclosed Notice for information on submitting your response.

Sincerely,

Francisco-Javier P. Digon-Greer, Bar Counsel
Attorney Consumer Assistance Program
ACAP Hotline 866-352-0707
Enclosures (Certificate of Disclosure, Notice of Grievance Procedures, Copy of Complaint, Notice -
Mailing Instructions)

cc: Leroy Griffith


Pursuant to Rule 3-7.1(f), Rules of Discipline, you must execute the appropriate disclosure
paragraph below and return the form to this office by April 4, 2011. The rule provides that the
nature of the charges be stated in the notice to your firm; however, we suggest that you attach a
copy of the complaint.

CERTIFICATE OF DISCLOSURE

I HEREBY CERTIFY that on this ________ day of _______________, 201___, a true copy of
the foregoing disclosure was furnished to ________________________________, a member of
my present law firm of ______________________________________________________, and,
if different, to _________________________________________, a member of the law firm of
______________________________________________________, with which I was associated
at the time of the act(s) giving rise to the complaint in The Florida Bar File No. 2011-70,952
(11B).


_______________________________________
Michael Christian Gongora


CERTIFICATE OF DISCLOSURE
(Corporate/Government Employment)

I HEREBY CERTIFY that on this ________ day of _______________, 201___, a true copy of
the foregoing disclosure was furnished to ________________________________, my supervisor
at ______________________________________________________ (name of agency), with
which I was associated at the time of the act(s) giving rise to the complaint in The Florida Bar
File No. 2011-70,952 (11B).


_______________________________________
Michael Christian Gongora

CERTIFICATE OF NON-LAW FIRM AFFILIATION
(Sole Practitioner)

I HEREBY CERTIFY to The Florida Bar on this ________ day of _______________, 201___,
that I am not presently affiliated with a law firm and was not affiliated with a law firm at the time
of the act(s) giving rise to the complaint in The Florida Bar File No. 2011-70,952 (11B).


_______________________________________
Michael Christian Gongora


NOTICE OF GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES


1. The enclosed letter is an informal inquiry. Your response is required under the
provisions of The Rules Regulating The Florida Bar 4-8.4(g), Rules of Professional Conduct.
Failure to provide a written response to this complaint is in itself a violation of Rule 4-8.4(g). If
you do not respond, the matter will be forwarded to the grievance committee for disposition in
accordance with Rule 3-7.3 of the Rules of Discipline.

2. Many complaints considered first by staff counsel are not forwarded to a grievance
committee, as they do not involve violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct justifying
disciplinary action.

3. "Pursuant to Rule 3-7.1(a), Rules of Discipline, any response by you in these proceedings
shall become part of the public record of this matter and thereby become accessible to the public
upon the closure of the case by Bar counsel or upon a finding of no probable cause, probable
cause, minor misconduct, or recommendation of diversion. Disclosure during the pendency of
an investigation may be made only as to status if a specific inquiry concerning this case is made
and if this matter is generally known to be in the public domain."

4. The grievance committee is the Bar's "grand jury." Its function and procedure are set
forth in Rule 3-7.4. Proceedings before the grievance committee, for the most part, are non-
adversarial in nature. However, you should carefully review Chapter 3 of the Rules Regulating
The Florida Bar.

5. If the grievance committee finds probable cause, formal adversarial proceedings, which
ordinarily lead to disposition by the Supreme Court of Florida, will be commenced under 3-7.6,
unless a plea is submitted under Rule 3-7.9


THE FLORIDA BAR


JOHN F. HARKNESS, JR.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
651 EAST JEFFERSON STREET
TALLAHASSEE, FL 32399-2300


850/561-5600
WWW.FLORIDABAR.ORG

March 21, 2011


Mr. Leroy Griffith
1527 Washington Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Re: Michael Christian Gongora; The Florida Bar File No. 2011-70,952 (11B)

Dear Mr. Griffith:

Enclosed is a copy of our letter to Mr. Gongora which requires a response to your complaint.

Once you receive Mr. Gongora's response, you have 10 days to file a rebuttal if you so desire. If
you decide to file a rebuttal, please send a copy to Mr. Gongora. Rebuttals should not exceed 25
pages and may refer to any additional documents or exhibits that are available on request. Please
address any and all correspondence to me. Please note that any correspondence must be sent
through the U.S. mail; we cannot accept faxed material.

Please be advised that as an arm of the Supreme Court of Florida, The Florida Bar can
investigate allegations of misconduct against attorneys, and where appropriate, request that the
attorney be disciplined. The Florida Bar cannot render legal advice nor can The Florida Bar
represent individuals or intervene on their behalf in any civil or criminal matter.

Please review the enclosed Notice on mailing instructions for information on submitting your
rebuttal.

Sincerely,

Francisco-Javier P. Digon-Greer, Bar Counsel
Attorney Consumer Assistance Program
ACAP Hotline 866-352-0707

Enclosures (Notice of Grievance Procedures, Copy of Letter to Mr. Gongora; Notice - Mailing
Instructions)

cc: Mr. Michael Christian Gongora



NOTICE OF GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES


1. The enclosed letter is an informal inquiry. Your response is required under the
provisions of The Rules Regulating The Florida Bar 4 8.4(g), Rules of Professional Conduct.
Failure to provide a written response to this complaint is in itself a violation of Rule 4 8.4(g). If
you do not respond, the matter will be forwarded to the grievance committee for disposition in
accordance with Rule 3-7.3 of the Rules of Discipline.

2. Many complaints considered first by staff counsel are not forwarded to a grievance
committee, as they do not involve violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct justifying
disciplinary action.

3. Pursuant to Rule 3-7.1(a), Rules of Discipline, any response by you in these proceedings
shall become part of the public record of this matter and thereby become accessible to the public
upon the closure of the case by Bar counsel or upon a finding of no probable cause, probable
cause, minor misconduct, or recommendation of diversion. Disclosure during the pendency of
an investigation may be made only as to status if a specific inquiry concerning this case is made
and if this matter is generally known to be in the public domain.

4. The grievance committee is the Bars grand jury. Its function and procedure are set
forth in Rule 3-7.4. Proceedings before the grievance committee, for the most part, are non-
adversarial in nature. However, you should carefully review Chapter 3 of the Rules Regulating
The Florida Bar.

5. If the grievance committee finds probable cause, formal adversarial proceedings, which
ordinarily lead to disposition by the Supreme Court of Florida, will be commenced under
3-7.6, unless a plea is submitted under Rule 3-7.

PERSONAL - REPLY REQUESTED Mr. Michael Christian Gongora
Becker & Poliakoff P A
121 Alhambra Cir Fl 10
Coral Gables, FL 33134-4540

Mr. Leroy Griffith
1527 Washington Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

T H E L A W O F F I C E O F
^RECEIVED
& \
RECEIVED ?
AP R 2 7 2011
SUI T E 416
_ ACAP
I 5O SOUT H P I NE I SLAND ROAD
P L A NT A T I O N, FLORI DA 3332 4-2 667
P A T RI C I A S. ET KI N (954)42 4-92 7 2
FAX (954) 42 4-92 44
RI C H A RD B. LISS
OF COUNSEL
Via UPS
26,2011
Francisco-Javier P. Digon-Greer
Bar Counsel APR I 1 2011
The Florida Bar -^
Attorney Consumer Assistance Program ^
651 East Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399
RE: Complaint of Leroy Griffith against Michael Christian Gongora
The Florida Bar File No. 2011-70,952(1 IB)
Dear Mr. Digon-Greer:
This will confirm the appearance of the Law Office of Patricia S. Etkin, P.A., as counsel for
Michael Christian Gongora. In compliance with Rule 3-7. l(f), Rules Regulating The Florida
Bar, enclosed for your file is the Certificate of Disclosure executed by Mr. Gongora.
Background
As indicated in Mr. Griffith's complaint, he is the owner of Club Madonna. Club Madonna is
located in the City of Miami Beach and features entertainment by female dancers who display
total nudity. Because the Miami Beach City Code prohibits the sale of alcohol in an
establishment where total nudity is displayed, alcoholic beverages cannot be legally sold to
customers of Club Madonna. For this reason, beginning in 1999, Mr. Griffith has doggedly
pursued an agenda to persuade the City Commission of the City of Miami Beach ("City
Commission") to adopt an ordinance amending the pertinent provisions of the Miami Beach City
Code, thereby allowing clubs such as Club Madonna to sell alcoholic beverages and provide
totally nude entertainment ("ordinance amendment").
Mr. Griffith has been unsuccessful in his ongoing efforts to obtain City Commission approval of
the ordinance amendment. Clearly frustrated by this lack of success, Mr. Griffith has utilized a
multitude of forums to lash out against those City officials whom he perceives to have thwarted
him from achieving his objective: selling alcoholic beverages and providing totally nude
entertainment. Mr. Gongora is the latest victim of Mr. Griffith's ire.
Francisco-Javier P. Digon-Greer
April 26, 2011
Page 2
Preliminary Statement
A significant portion of Mr. Griffith's complaint sets forth events that occurred in 2004 and 2005
and reflects his perception of unfair treatment by the City Commission. However, Mr. Gongora
was not a member of the City Commission in 2004 and 2005.
l
Moreover, the only allegation
made by Mr. Griffith regarding Mr. Gongora's actions in his capacity as a City Commissioner
occurred in July 2010, during a luncheon meeting.
Response
Mr. Gongora was not morally opposed to allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages at nude
entertainment establishments like Club Madonna. However, he was well aware of the history of
strong opposition to the ordinance amendment within the City Commission. He was also well
aware of the concerns of the local community. Before committing to supporting the ordinance
amendment, Mr. Gongora attempted to ascertain the current sentiment of the City Commission.
He did so on April 30, 2010, during the City Commission Retreat as confirmed by the minutes:
Commissioner Gongora asked if there was any interest in revisiting Club
Madonna and the issue of nudity and alcohol. A discussion was held and it was
decided that at this time there is no interest in pursuing this. As part of the
discussion, Vice-Mayor Libbin stated that the nudity and alcohol law needs to be
applied equally with all establishments on Miami Beach.
Notwithstanding the lack of City Commission support, Mr. Gongora remained amenable to
further consideration of the ordinance amendment. During the open-mike/citizen's forum
portion of the City Commission meeting that occurred on June 9, 2010, Mr. Griffith's employee,
Carl Zablotny, attempted to raise the Club Madonna issue. Although Mr. Gongora commented
in favor of revisiting this issue, further discussion was curtailed by Mayor Bower until such time
as a City Commissioner placed the issue on the agenda of a City Commission meeting.
The next City Commission meeting was scheduled for July 14, 2010. Mr. Griffith requested a
meeting with Mr. Gongora prior to the July 14, 2010, meeting of the City Commission. On July
12, 2010, Mr. Gongora met with Mr. Griffith at a local restaurant. Also present were Randall
Hillard and Mr. Zablotny. During this meeting, Mr. Gongora stated that he did not believe that
the ordinance amendment had City Commission support. In an effort to generate support, Mr.
Gongora suggested that Mr. Griffith undertake remedial measures that would ameliorate the
perceived negative effects caused by Club Madonna. Mr. Gongora specifically suggested
removal of the loveseat that was placed outside Club Madonna where scantily clothed female
entertainers lounged to entice customers to enter the club. Mr. Griffith became incensed at this
1
Mr. Gongora served as a member of the City Commission during the following periods: November 2006
to November 2007; November 2009 to present.
THE LAW OFFICE OF
acfi U f ak m ,
Francisco-Javier P. Digon-Greer
April 26, 2011
Page 3
suggestion which he considered to be an assault on his property rights. The meeting ended
abruptly on an angry note.
Mr. Gongora denies the allegation that his support of the ordinance amendment was conditioned
upon the hiring of Mr. Hillard to conduct "research" and asserts that there was no "attempted
extortion." Mr. Gongora's "silence" during the City Commission meeting on July 14, 2010, is
not evidence of an "unsuccessful extortion attempt"; Mr. Gongora's silence merely evidences a
decision not to champion the ordinance amendment which was destined to fail, particularly when
Mr. Griffith refused to consider reasonable remedial measures.
Mr. Griffith's frustration in failing to garner City Commission support for the ordinance
amendment is clearly manifested in this complaint as well as in Mr. Griffith's long history of
pursuing punitive action against other City of Miami Beach officials who have not supported the
ordinance amendment. Significantly, Mr. Griffith is not a client; he is a constituent. The Florida
Bar should not permit its disciplinary system to be utilized by disgruntled constituents either as
leverage to gain support for a legislative position or as retaliation when a legislative position is
not supported.
Mr. Gongora's decision not to sponsor the ordinance amendment had a proper basis and did not
involve any violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Accordingly, The Florida Bar's file
in this matter should be closed.
Very truJy yours,
QCIA S. ETKIN
PSE/msf
Enc.
cc: Michael Christian Gongora, Esq.
Leroy Griffith
THE LAW OFFICE OF
a cfi
Pursuant to Rule 3-7. l(f), Rules of Discipline, you must execute the appropriate disclosure
paragraph below and return the form to this office by April 4, 2011. The rule provides that the
nature of the charges be stated in the notice to your firm; however, we suggest that you attach a
copy of the complaint.
CERTIFICATE OF DISCLOSURE
1 HEREBY CERTIFY that on this J^S'."" " day of V^tleC\ . 201 j_, a true copy of
the foregoing disclosure was furnished to _^'NxKo ^
>f
-.^>,/\ _ ,
a
member of
m y present l a w f i r m of _ ' '
if different, to ___ ______ ____ > a member of the law firm of
____ ______ __ with which I was associated
at the time of the act(s) giving rise to the complaint in The Florida Bar File No. 201 1-70,952
(11B).
CERTIFICATE OF DISCLOSURE
(Corporate/Government Employment)
I HEREBY CERTIFY that on mis day of _ , 201 , a true copy of
the foregoing disclosure was famished to _____ , my supervisor
at (name of agency), with
which I was associated at the time of the act(s) giving rise to the complaint in The Florida Bar
File No. 2011-70,952(118),
Michael Christian Gongora
CERTIFICATE OF NON-LAW FIRM AFFILIATION
(Sole Practitioner)
I HEREBY CERTIFY to The Florida Bar on this day of , 201 ,
that I am not presently affiliated with a law firm and was not affiliated with a law firm at the time
of the act(s) giving rise to the complaint in The Florida Bar File No. 2011-70,952 (1 IB).
Michael Christian Gongora
Club Madonna
1527 Washington Ave. Miami Beach, Florida 33139
office(g)clubmadonna.com 305-534-2000
May 3, 2011
Francisco-Javier P. Digon-Greer ^ APAP
Bar Counsel H^,
The Florida Bar
Attorney Consumer Assistance Program
651 Tallahassee, FL. 32399
RE: Complaint of Leroy Griffith against Michael Christian Gongora
The Florida Bar File No. 2011-70,952(116)
Dear Mr. Digon-Greer:
I am in receipt of the correspondence dated April 26, 2011, from Ms. Etkin
and simply reply as follows:
No where in the response are the issues addressed as concerns the act of
Extortion that have been set forth in the complaint. At best the response
Does not address the issues brought to the attention of the Florida Bar.
I would however add that I did not request the meeting and did not know
the purpose until it happened.
Please see the attached Affidavit:
Very truly yours, /o _._^ 'f*
, RECEIVED *
-^ MAY O S 2011
Leroy C. 0riffitjj/Club Madonna td ACAP
FLORIDA ELECTIONS COMMISSION
107 W. Gaines Street,
Suite 224 Collins Building
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1050
Telephone: (850) 922-4539
Fax: (850)921-0783
March 18,2011
CERTIFIED MAIL 7004 1160 0004 9190 3098
The Honorable Michael C. Gongora
5838 Collins Ave., #3A
Miami Beach, FL 33140
RE; Case No.: FEC 11-069
Dear Mr. Gongora:
O n March 14, 2011, the Florida Elections Commission received the enclosed complaint allegine
one or^r T ^
e
!
ecti
<>
n kws
' ' ^-viewed the complaint and find ttut cont2
one or more legally-sufficient allegations. Along with all allegations in the complaint, the
Comirmsion staff will investigate the following alleged violations:
S ection 106.07(5), Florida S tatutes: Michael C. G6ngora,
candidate for re-election to the Miami Beach City Commission,
certified his 2009 F4 Campaign Treasurer Report as true, correct,
and complete when it was not, as alleged in the complaint.
S ection 106.19(l)(c), Florida S tatutes: Michael C. Gongora,
candidate for re-election to the Miami Beach City Commission,
falsely reported or deliberately failed to include information on his
2009 F4 Campaign Treasurer Report as required by 106.07(5),
Florida S tatutes, as alleged in the complaint.
S ection 106.19(l)(b), Florida S tatutes: Michael C. Gongora,
candidate for re-election to (he Miami Beach City Commission,
falsely reported or deliberately failed to report information on his
2009 F4 Campaign Treasurer Report as required by Chapter 106,
Florida S tatues, as alleged in the complaint.
S ection 106.07(5), Florida S tatutes: Michael C. Gongora,
candidate for re-election to the Miami Beach City Commission,
cerffod his 2009 Gl Canpaign Treasurer Report as true, correct,
and complete when it was not. as alleged m the complaint.
S ection 106.19(l)(c), Florida Statutes: Michael C. Gongora
candidate for re-election to the Miami Beach City Commission'
ialsely reported or deliberately failed to include information on his
2009 Gl Campaign Treasurer Report as required by 106.07(5),
Florida S tatutes, as alleged in the complaint.
Section 106J9(l)(b), Florida Statutes: Michael C. Gongora
candidate for re-election to the Miami Beach City Commission,'
falsely reported or deliberately failed to report information on his
2009 Gl Campaign Treasurer Report as required by Chapter 106
Florida S tatues, as alleged in the complaint.
Y ou may respond to- the allegations above by filing a notarized statement providing any
fi ?a
n
rc non
r
Tt
g
*" ^^
circumstances
'-rounding the allegations. If you choose to
1 er Zirresno ff \ ^ ^^
S
^
2
****
f
*
6
^*>
recdve
*
letter, your response will be included as an attachment to the investigator's report.
When we conclude the investigation, you will receive a copy of the Report of I nvestigation. Y ou
may iile a response to the report wJlhini4Jayj_from the date the report is mailed to you. Based
on the results of the investigation, legal staff will make a written recommendation to the
Commission on whether there is probable cause to believe you have violated Chapter 104 or 106
Honda S tatutes. Y ou will receive a copy of the S taff Recommendation and may file a response'
is mailed to you. Y our timely filed .
response(s) will be considered by the Commission when determining probable cause.
The Commission will then hold a hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to believe
you have violated Chapter 104 or 106, Florida S tatutes. Y ou and the complainant will receive a
notice of hearing at least 14 days before the hearing. The notice of hearing will indicate the
location, date, and time of your hearing. Y ou will have the opportunity to make a brief oral
statement to the Commission, but you will not be permitted to testify or call others to testify, or
introduce any documentary or other evidence. The Commission also may allow the complainant
to make a brief oral statement.
At any time before a probable cause finding, you may notify us in writing that you want to enter
into negotiations directed towards reaching a settlement via consent agreement.
The Report of I nvestigation, S taff Recommendation, and Notice of Hearing will be mailed to the
same address as this letter. Therefore, if your address changes, you must notify the investigator
assiered to this case of your new address. O therwise, you may not receive the correspondence
fro^T the staff. F^h^toremijL^
l-d'er -section 106.25, Florida S tatutes, complaints, Conunisri^inyesti^mv^tiv*
* ^X
Commission staff can discuss this case with him or her.
ComO l 1 (8/08)
I f you have any questions or need a ddi t i ona l information., please contact Helen Hinson, the
investigator assigned to this case, al extension 108
S mccicly,
S^~^
Rosamiri Catalano
Executive Director
cc Lcroy Griffith, Complainant
Enclosure Complaint w/attachments
( omO l I (8/08)
w/r *-,,.'* , 'P''
FfDAVTT
State of Florida
County of Miami Dade
BEFORE ME, the undersigned Notary,
[name of Notary before whom affidavit is sworn], on this
[day of month] day of
[month], 2011,personally appeared Carl Zablotny, [name of affiant], known to me to
be a credible person and of lawful age,who being by me first duly sworn,on his oath,deposes and says:
I,Carl Zablotny,affirm that I was present during a meeting at approximately 2 p.m. on the 12
th
day of July,
2010 between Leroy Griffith (owner of Club Madonna) and Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Gongora.
Also present at that meeting was a well-known Miami Beach lobbyist,Randy Milliard. I affirm that Leroy
Griffith informed me that the subject of such meeting was to ascertain that Commissioner Michael Gongora
was going to bring up the issue of serving liquor at Club Madonna as Commissioner Gongora had previously
promised Mr. Griffith. I also affirm that I was present during several meetings - including one in Mr. Griffith's
office and one in Commissioner Gongora's office - at which Commissioner Gongora promised Mr. Griffith
that he would definitely bring this issue before the commissioners,but he had not done so for more than six
months. The presence and purpose of Mr. Milliard at this luncheon meeting was unknown to both Mr. Griffith
and myself.
I also affirm that on June 9 during the commission meeting that I personally spoke on behalf of Mr. Griffith's
proposed ordinance after which Commissioner Gongora congratulated me and promised that he would
"definitely bring up the issue at the next commission meeting,no matter what." The next commission meeting
was scheduled for July 14 and that was the reason for the meeting with Mr. Gongora scheduled for July 12.
During the luncheon meeting of July 12,I affirm that Mr. Gongora presented Mr. Griffith with a proposal. Mr.
Gongora said that he needed to do more "research" as to where other commissioners stood on the issue He
wanted Mr. Griffith to hire Mr. Milliard to do that research.
A heated argument ensued during which Mr. Griffith informed Commissioner Gongora that he didn't need
any further research and would not hire Mr. Milliard. Commissioner Gongora abruptly stated that if he did not
hire Mr. Milliard,he would not bring up the issue and that this was the end of the discussion about Club
Madonna. I affirm that Mr. Griffith did not hire Mr. Milliard and subsequently Commissioner Gongora did not
bring the issue before the Miami Beach City Commission.
At the July 14
th
meeting of the city commission,I affirm that I spoke during the open-forum "Sutnick Hour" in
favor of Mr. Griffith's situation and stated that I was appalled by Commissioner Gongora's behavior just two
days previous to this commission meeting I informed the commission of the Randy Milliard incident with Mr
Griffith and that Commissioner Gongora tried to get Mr Griffith to hire Mr Milliard in exchange for just
bringing up the amendment issue before the commission I was then chastised by the mayor,Matti Bower,
for bringing Commissioner Gongora into the conversation about Mr Griffith's concerns Mr Griffith's issue
was never discussed again
[set forth affiant's statement of facts]
[signature of affiant]
[printed name of affiant]
[address of affiant line 1]
[address of affiant, line 2]
State of Florida
County of
Sworn to (or affirmed) and subscribed before me this day of , (year),by
(name of person making statement)
(Signature of Notary Public - State of Florida)
(Print,Type,or Stamp Commissioned Name of Notary Public)
Personally Known . OR Produced Identification
Type of Identification Produced
RE: Leroy Griffith against Michael Christian Gongora
The Florida Bar File No. 2011-70,952(11F)
RULE 3~7.3(d) DETERMINATION OF NO PROBABLE CAUSE
BY BAR COUNSEL AND COMMITTEE CHAIR
Pursuant to the provisions of Rule 3-7.3(d) of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, the
undersigned, by their signature on this report, signify their concurrence in a finding of no
probable cause as to the referenced complaint.
Pursuant to the Bar's records retention schedule, the computer record and file will be disposed of
one year from the date of closing.
Dated this day of , 201 1.
TONYA J. MfefiSTER, Chair
Eleventh Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee "F"
Dated this day of ^ 2011.
TONYA L. AVERY
Bar Counsel
The Florida Bar
444 Brickell Avenue, Suite M-100
Miami, Florida 33131-2404
(305) 377-4445
cc: Leroy Griffith, Complainant
September 2, 2011
Via U.S. Mail
Tonya L. Avery
The Florida Bar
Rivergate Plaza, Suite M-100
444 Brickell Avenue
Miami, FL 33131
Re: Complaint by Leroy Griffith against Michael Christian Gongora
The Florida Bar File No. 2011-70,952(11F)
Dear Ms. Avery:
Enclosed please find the executed Rule 3-7.3(d) Determination of No Probable Cause
By Bar Counsel and Committee Chair with regard to the above referenced matter.
Do not hesitate to contact me, should you have any questions.
Very truly yours,
X\A/o,
TONYA J.MEISTER
TJM/mer
Courthouse Tower, Suite 750 $44 West Flagler Street, Miami, FL 33130 USA
305-590-5570 0 305-675-3787 (fax) www.meisterlaTvfirm.com @ info@meisterlawfirm.com


THE FLORIDA BAR


JOHN F. HARKNESS, JR.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
MIAMI BRANCH OFFICE
444 BRICKELL AVENUE
RIVERGATE PLAZA, SUITE M-100
MIAMI, FLORIDA 33131-2404

(305) 377-4445
WWW.FLORIDABAR.ORG
September 7, 2011

Leroy Griffith
1527 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach, Florida 33139

Re: Complaint by Leroy Griffith against Michael Christian Gongora
The Florida Bar File No. 2011-70,952(11F)

Dear Mr. Griffith:

Enclosed is a Finding of No Probable Cause from the Chair of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit
Grievance Committee F and undersigned counsel concerning the above-referenced file. This
letter does not constitute a disciplinary record and a copy has been furnished to the Respondent.

This file was referred to our office based on your allegations that as a Miami Beach City
Commissioner, Mr. Gongora agreed to bring a specific matter to the attention of the commission,
regarding the serving of alcohol at Club Modonna, on the condition that you hire a lobbyist
friend of Mr. Gongoras. Having carefully reviewed this matter, the Bar and Chair finds there is
insufficient evidence to establish that an ethical violation has been committed in that no
independent evidence has been obtained or provided to corroborate your allegations. Therefore,
we find no probable cause.

The forwarding of this letter to you concludes disciplinary proceedings in this matter. Pursuant
to the Bars records retention schedule, the computer record and file will be disposed of one year
from the date of closing.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

TONYA L. AVERY
Bar Counsel

TLA/jmc

Enclosure

cc: Patricia S. Etkin, Attorney for Respondent
Tonya J. Meister, Chair
John H. Hickey, Designated Reviewer
MIAMI MIRROR TRUE REFLECTIONS

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 2:37 PM


From: David Arthur Walters
To: Michael Gongora
Subject: Bar Case how about a quote?
Michael,
As you may know, after a Bar inquiry is dismissed for no probable cause, the file is in theory
made public for a year after the dismissal, and then the file and the record that there was a file is
destroyed. The dismissed record never appears on the attorney's webpage at the Bar. Sometimes
it is difficult to get a copy of the public file, since the files are not centralized and one has to call
and beg a grievance committee secretary to scan it etc.
The Bar pages only disclose actual discipline over the last 10 years, and I believe lists are
periodically released to the press. The press is not notified of dismissals, nor would anyone know
about them unless they constantly telephoned the Bar and inquired about the disposition of a
case, if they had heard about it beforehand.
That policy would obviously allow the bar to conceal its own conduct in respect to dismissals,
and would also conceal a pattern of misconduct from consumers when an attorney is accused of
the same wrongdoing by number consumers.
On the other hand, it would allow an attorney to be smeared in the press without releasing
information as to his acquittal. In your case, David Smiley did not have enough space in his
exhaustive article to mention your name and that the Bar had cleared you.
I would like your opinion as to whether you agree with the present Bar policy, or if you believe
more transparency is needed in respect to dismissed cases.
For example, a list of cases might be kept on the Bar site, indicating the nature of the complaint,
its date, and whether and when it was dismissed or discipline imposed. The primary documents
would be available by simply clicking on the relevant hypertext, the former for one year, the
latter for ten years - and I would go farther and change the one-year administrative rule to five
years. I would have monthly releases to the press on all dismissals and disciplinary impositions.
Thanks,
David Arthur Walters

February 27, 2012 5:50 PM



To: David Arthur Walters

From: Michael C. Gongora

Subject: Bar Case what about a quote?

When first asked by various members of the press after Leroy Griffith filed the Bar complaint I
said that it was groundless. I was confident that the Bar, in their infinite wisdom would totally
exonerate me of any of Griffiths charges. Im pleased that my confidence was well-based.


Michael C. Gongora
Attorney at Law

Alhambra Towers
121 Alhambra Plaza, 10th Floor
Coral Gables, FL 33134


MIAMI MIRROR TRUE REFLECTIONS

Page1of2

March 02, 2012


Tonya L. Avery
Bar Counsel
THE FLORIDA BAR
File No. File No. 2011-70,952(11F) Leroy Griffith Inquiry In Re Michael Gongora
Dear Ms. Avery:
I have examined the public file and there seems to be something amiss, perhaps a missing
grievance committee report detailing its inquiry or explaining its finding, and missing testimony
from a witness. The only grievance committee document I received is a terse statement from its
chair person finding no probable cause, with no explanation of the finding whatsoever, leaving
the file as it stands casting the Bar procedure in a rather bad light, so I am checking with you
prior to filing my own report.
Your September 7, 2011 letter, notifying Mr. Griffith that there was no finding of probable cause
by the grievance committee, states that the finding was made because there was no independent
evidence submitted to corroborate his claim that Mr. Gongora committed a extortionate act
during the July 12 meeting had with Mssrs. Griffith, Zublotny, Gongora and Hilliard attending.
However, the Bar files includes an affidavit sworn to by Mr. Zublotny witnessing that the
extortion complained of did in fact take place at the meeting between the four persons.
I understand that the inquiry/complaint filed by Mr. Griffith, making the same allegation, is
considered sworn to under penalties of perjury. Therefore the Bar had two sworn statements to
the effect that an extortionate threat was actually made at the meeting.
On the other hand, Patricia S. Etkin, answering the Bars inquiry for Mr. Gongora, said no such
event took place, and gave a description of events that contradicted the Griffith-Zublotny
account. I notice that Ms. Etkin did not submit a sworn statement from Mr. Gongora to that
effect.
It would seem that the sworn statements of Mssrs. Griffith and Zublotny would carry more
weight than the unsworn statement of Mr. Gongora made through his lawyer; but no, the
decision seems to be in favor of the weaker side.
Is there some rule of evidence that would give Ms. Etkins representation of what her client said
to her preponderance over the sworn testimony of two witnesses? I would like to include that
rule or principle in my report.
And surely the public will need to know if the word independent in your letter, in regards to
the want of evidence, implies that the grievance committee and its chair presumed that Mr.
Zublotny conspired with Mr. Griffith to lie about facts simply because he has a business
relationship with him. Is that true? Is it a rule of law?
I think anyone would better understand the committees finding of insufficient evidence if it
were a case where two witnesses said one thing and two other witnesses contradicted them,
providing they were all sworn. I see no sworn statement from Mr. Hilliard or any information
MIAMI MIRROR TRUE REFLECTIONS

Page2of2

whatsoever that he was conferred with on the matter and denied the Griffith-Zublotny account
and affirmed the Gongora account of events. Please send along that documentation.
Your assistance is deeply appreciated.
Very truly yours,
David Arthur Walters