When South Miami commissioners were readying to take a vote opposing Florida Power & Light's proposed base-rate increase, Mayor Philip Stoddard got an unexpected phone call -- from his state senator.
Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a lawyer and lobbyist, called on behalf of his firm's client: FPL.
"He did ask me to delay it, and I think they wanted me to delay it again," said Stoddard, who pushed back the resolution for unrelated scheduling reasons. "I wouldn't delay it a second time."
It's not the first time that Diaz de la Portilla or any other lawmaker lobbies a city in his or her district. Nothing prohibits them from doing so.
But Diaz de la Portilla, a Coral Gables Republican who works at Becker & Poliakoff, is not a registered lobbyist in South Miami. And South Miami -- along with Coral Gables, Miami and Pinecrest -- is engaged in an ongoing fight against FPL over the company's proposal to build power-transmission lines along U.S. 1.
Diaz de la Portilla called the brouhaha an attempt by "liberal Democrats ... to slander a Republican Senator." He noted his firm's long relationship with FPL and said he never spoke to Stoddard "about the merits of his resolution." Someone else is representing FPL before South Miami, Diaz de la Portilla added.
"I do not currently represent FPL before South Miami or any City within my Senate District," he said in a text message.
His appearance on behalf of FPL at a recent executive board meeting of the Miami-Dade League of Cities outraged Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, a former Democratic state representative. She called Diaz de la Portilla's gig lobbying cities in his district "unconscionable."
"It's got to be a conflict of interest," she said. "It is a breach of his duty as a representative."