The director-on-leave of Miami-Dade Animal Services will need to find a new lawyer, as the county attorney’s office has been granted permission to withdraw from representing her in a lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed by Yolanda Berkowitz, accuses the director of slandering her after Berkowitz complained about the director’s performance.
The county will not cover the expenses for the new lawyer, citing “irreconcilable differences” that arose between Alison Bronwyn Stanford and the attorney’s office.
Alison Bronwyn Stanford, a former prosecutor, and administrator at the Florida Department of Children and Families, became the director of animal services in November 2021. Her appointment faced criticism, particularly regarding the shelter’s handling of homeless dogs during the COVID pandemic.
The reason behind the county attorney’s office’s decision to withdraw representation for Berkowitz remains unclear.
Following the legal developments, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava placed Stanford on administrative leave and appointed a new interim director on July 15.
During the hearing, Assistant County Attorney Rachel Walters explained that the lawyer representing Stanford had to go on emergency leave on the same day Stanford was placed on leave. Subsequently, the office filed a motion to withdraw as counsel the following Monday.
Walters mentioned that “irreconcilable differences” led to the county’s decision not to represent Stanford anymore. Circuit Judge William Thomas, finding no basis to deny the county’s motion, criticized the delay caused by the initial agreement to represent Stanford.
The judge set a status conference for August 15, by which time Stanford is expected to have a new lawyer.
Hank Adorno, the attorney for Berkowitz, expressed frustration with the county attorney’s office for initially agreeing to take on the case and then reversing their decision. He emphasized the urgency to resolve the case quickly due to the damaging effects of the slanderous statements and the publicity surrounding it.