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Winter Park law firm Fishback Dominick to represent City of Ocoee

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Norine Dworkin

Editor in Chief

Thursday, August 3, 2023


Norine Dworkin/VoxPopuli

Richard Geller, a board-certified specialist in city, county and local government law from Fishback Dominick, is Ocoee's new city attorney.

In a widely expected decision, Ocoee commissioners Tuesday, unanimously chose Winter Park-based Fishback Dominick as the city’s new law firm.

Richard Geller, a Fishback Dominick partner, initially brought in as a consultant to determine the legality of rescheduling the city’s special election for District 4 city commissioner, is the new city attorney. He replaces Scott Cookson, a partner at ShuffieldLowman in Orlando. Cookson announced his retirement in April after serving as city attorney for 13 years.

“It’s a great honor and a great responsibility to the elected officials and the citizens” Geller told VoxPopuli after the meeting.

Geller graduated cum laude from Temple University's James E. Beasley School of Law and was associate research editor of the Law Review. He’s taught land use and urban zoning law at Rollins College; judged code enforcement proceedings as a special magistrate in Cape Canaveral; and worked as Planning and Zoning Board Commissioner for Orange County as well as counsel to both Winter Garden and Groveland, where he drafted zoning requirements that revitalized the cities’ downtowns and made Horizon West more walkable. 

Maitland law firm Shepard Smith Kohlmyer & Hand, represented by partner Drew Smith, also made a pitch to represent the city. But given all the work Fishback Dominick’s lawyers had previously done for Ocoee — including steering the commission away from a 2021 deal with CEMEX for a concrete batch plant that didn’t jibe with the city’s longterm plan even as it promised jobs — the easy money was on them.

The Fishback Dominick team gave their presentation during a public workshop in Commission Chambers ahead of the regular commission meeting. Four members of the firm attendeed — including Hillary Griffith, an associate and the firm’s only female attorney; the firm employs no attorneys of color. 

Geller and partner Kurt Ardaman emphasized their firm’s experience in government law —four partners, including Geller and Ardaman, are board-certified specialists in city, county and local government law. They discussed their decades in practice, their firm’s track record of maintaining clients for decades, treating clients “like family” and Geller’s 30-plus years as a litigation attorney.

Ardaman even pulled out his West Orange County bona fides, telling the commission that he graduated from Ocoee High School and Ocoee Elementary School.

Perhaps most important, though, Geller noted that “no one knows the charter better than I do.” 

That is undoubtedly true. After Geller walked the commission through the legalities of rescheduling the District 4 city commission seat election for March 19, 2024, he was tapped by the commission to oversee the charter review commission’s work to strengthen candidate residency requirements and clear up other sections in the charter where there was confusion. The overall goal was to draft ballot measures that residents would vote on in March 2024. (Eleven ideas were presented to commissioners for review at the regular meeting.)

Asked if he thought his deep charter knowledge was what sealed the decision for commissioners, Geller said, “I don’t want to speculate. But he added he was “very much looking forward” to getting to work as city attorney. Look for him on the dais on Aug. 15. 

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