Barnaby Min, Miami's deputy city attorney, was widely ridiculed last week for comparing legalizing weed to pedophilia at a meeting at city hall. But it turns out he's an even worse messenger for that offensive claim than most anyone knew.
Min himself was caught sexually harassing a female city auditor by emailing her the word "penis" multiple times in 2011, according to emails New Times obtained via a records request. Yet he kept his job as the city's then-zoning administrator and later rose through the ranks in the city attorney's office. The previously unreported case calls into question whether Min should be the person making decisions about whether children with cancer or elderly Alzheimer's patients are able to receive medicine.
In 2011, Min was working as the city's zoning director. That January, he sent multiple emails spelling out the word "penis" to a young, female city auditor whom Min had previously asked out to lunch and to "social events," according to city documents. The auditor then filed a complaint about Min, and in February the city's office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Programs (EODP) sustained allegations of sexual harassment against him. The EODP forwarded the findings to Min's supervisor, Orlando Toledo, who was then the director of the building department.
It is unclear, however, if Min received discipline for his actions. According to his LinkedIn profile, he began working as an assistant city attorney in 2008 before moving on to serve as the city's zoning administrator in 2010. He kept his job until February 2013, when he was "forced out" due to "mounting conflicts over his strict interpretation of the city zoning code," according to a Miami Herald article from that year. He then worked as the director of contract management at Jackson Health Systems for eight months before he was hired as deputy city attorney in October 2013.
Min and city spokesperson Diana Gonzalez did not respond to New Times' calls and emails sent Friday requesting comment about Min's harassment case.
Via email Sunday, City Attorney Victoria Mendez vouched for Min's judgment as a lawyer.
"Mr. Min was hired as a deputy city attorney based on his legal skills and qualifications," she said. "I am unaware of what discipline, if any, was imposed against Mr. Min by his prior zoning supervisor, when he was in the zoning department and not this office. I am confident in his legal acumen and demeanor as a deputy city attorney."
The 2011 ordeal began when the auditor was assigned to audit a series of impact fees for a building permit that she believed had been incorrectly refunded. In the chain of emails, which were attached as exhibits to the complaint, Min responded privately to the woman's claims by asking, "Why do you sound so mean in your emails?"
The co-worker wrote to the EODP that she thought the response was inappropriate.
"Spare me," she wrote back to Min. "I don't understand why we are still on this issue??? I am very much over impact fees... for now! You are an attorney, can you please explain to your staff the difference between the old and new Impact Fee Ordinance and how each has certain requirements and a developer can just pick and choose which parts to apply to their development."
"People are reading your emails," Min responded. "Penis." He then added a smiley-face emoticon.
The auditor wrote in her EODP complaint that she then called Min and told him to stop.
"After receipt of the inappropriate email, I called Mr. Min and told him not to send emails of this nature to me," she wrote. "He did not appear to be concerned and veered the conversation towards other city zoning business."
Three days later, on January 21, Min sent a blank email that contained nothing but a lowercase letter "p." He then sent another email with an "e." Then an "n," an "i," and an "s."
"I began receiving the first of five emails from Mr. Min," the victim later wrote to the EODP. "Each email contained one letter, spelling out a distasteful and inappropriate word. I did not reply to any of the emails nor did I make any attempt to contact Mr. Min. The emails were very upsetting and I left the office shortly after."
The complaint says that the next Monday, the auditor emailed her supervisor and asked to have a meeting about the messages.
"I want this inappropriate behavior to stop," the victim wrote to the EODP.
Last week, Min made headlines after bizarrely relating medical marijuana to pedophilia in a meeting of the city's Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board. Despite the fact that Florida voters overwhelmingly legalized medical cannabis in a constitutional referendum last year, Min and City Attorney Victoria Mendez claim the city should ban dispensaries outright because marijuana remains federally illegal.
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In an attempt to defend this position, Min claimed that the city allowing marijuana would be akin to legalizing child rape, because — bear with Min for a second — if the city or state tried to legalize something that was federally illegal (i.e., pedophilia), the feds could still arrest people for it.
"If the City of Miami for some infinite, god-forbidden reason thought having sex with a child was a great way to recover from some issue, and so we wrote it into our city code, just because the city says it's legal does not mean it's legal. So just because for marijuana, we say marijuana is legal and the state says it's legal, until the federal government says it's legal, it is not legal."
Both Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and Commissioner Francis Suarez have since said they disagree with Min's position and support dispensaries coming to the city. But as with the sexual harassment case six years ago, it's unclear whether Min will face repercussions for his actions.
The victim whom Min harassed asked to be kept anonymous, out of fear that publishing her name would lead to re-victimization or retaliation from the city.