Former Jacksonville general counsel may be brought back for help

by: Catherine Varnum Updated:


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Cindy Lacquidara was Jacksonville's top attorney for four years and handled some of the biggest legal cases. She fought to protect taxpayers dollars.

Now, just 18 days after leaving her post, her office wants to bring her back to help with unfinished business. In proposed legislation, Laquidara would get $150,000 to help with cases. Her yearly salary when she worked at the city was $205,000. We found out her replacement, acting general counsel Jason Gabriel, could have a salary up to $244,000. 

The question many have is why she is still needed. In an email from the city's ethics director, Carla Miller, she noted in Laquidara's resignation letter that the office was in "good shape" and was "fully staffed." Miller also said, "If there were federal cases pending when Ms. Laquidara resigned that were in critical condition with imminent deadlines they should've been addressed months ago." 

"We are fully staffed. Spending outside money is an additional cost to the taxpayers," said councilman John Crescimbeni. He isn't the only one with that concern. Action News called at least six other council members. One said he felt misled, thinking the office could handle the cases. Only one councilman said for sure the money should be approved. 

Many agreed not spending the money could result in lost cases, and bigger payouts, but they question why it's just coming up now. In a email from the acting general counsel, Gabriel referenced imminent deadlines in the cases, which the mayors office said were only recently set. 

The city's new general counsel did not return our calls Friday. Laquidara's new firm told us it would inappropriate for Laquidara to be involved in any decision related to payment for her services while she was still in office. 

Council will decide Tuesday whether to take this bill up as an emergency. If that happens, they could vote on whether to spend the money then.