Sure sure you can complain about a conflict-of-interest at Miami-Dade County involving Luis Andres Gazitua, a senior full-time advisor to Mayor Carlos Alvarez. But that’s like complaining that water is wet:
On his law firm’s website, mayoral legal advisor Luis Andre Gazitua is seated beside a window overlooking downtown Miami from an office atop Miami-Dade County Hall.
At the top of that Web page is a link to another page that explains how Gazitua and his three law partners use government access to help their clients.
‘Our Government Policy Practice attorneys work with all branches of government, through both traditional and innovative channels, to promote and protect our clients’ interests,” it says.
Gazitua, 32, is a full-time senior advisor to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez. The county’s ethics policy forbids the use of public office for private financial gain. ”That’s the underlying principle of the code of ethics; it applies to everybody across the board,” said Robert Meyers, who directs Miami-Dade’s Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.
There is no evidence that Gazitua’s private business has profited from his public post, but touting his county position on the website troubles ethics experts.
Gazitua did not respond to Miami Herald interview requests made directly and through the mayor’s office.
Let’s see what his website looks like today. Yep, that poorly-drafted language is still there. UM Professor Alfieri states the obvious:
Legal experts say the trumpeting of his county post on his law firm’s website raises an appearance of impropriety.
Gazitua appears to be ”using public access to leverage private gain,” said Tony Alfieri, a University of Miami professor who directs the school’s Center for Ethics and Public Service. “That’s a disadvantage to other law firms, and it creates a perception to ordinary citizens that public policy turns on access rather than merits or fairness.”
V. Lynn Whitfield, city attorney for North Miami and a member of the Florida Bar’s local government law branch, said that advertising a public post on a private website appears to be a clear-cut case of influence-peddling.
She said it seems to say, “I’ve got connections because of my job.”
”But it’s interesting,” she added. “It really is about what your bosses let you do.”
The website details a trip that Gazitua took to China for the county to bolster foreign trade, and how he represents the mayor on legal issues regarding mortgage fraud. The website says his firm covers international business and real-estate transactions.
The lawyer worked on Alvarez’s strong-mayor campaign, which vaulted the mayor to unprecedented power in January 2005.
In a 2006 interview with South Florida CEO magazine, Gazitua said he did much of the campaign’s legal work: “I started doing all the legal work.”
Gazitua’s father, Ralph Gazitua, donated at least $30,000 to Alvarez’s strong-mayor campaign, either personally or through businesses he owns, records show.
Alvarez appointed Ralph Gazitua to the board of directors of the Jay Malina International Trade Consortium, a county agency responsible for developing two-way trade at the Port of Miami and Miami International Airport.
Less than a month after Alvarez became strong mayor in January 2005, Luis Andre Gazitua joined the mayor’s staff. He had passed his bar exam in September 2003 after graduating from St. Thomas Law School.
Donations? Connections? Daddy’s money? I like this kid already. Luis, if you are out there, give us your side of the story — so far you are a true South Florida success story.