When Swerdlow won the bid, North Miami negotiated the 100-year lease with Oleta Partners. The city has collected an initial payment of $17.5 million and expects to collect $1.5 million yearly in rent.
According to Jean Cherubin, Pierre does not have a financial stake in the Haiti project. He said Pierre, an attorney, is an unpaid advisor who provides free legal advice when needed. Former State Rep. Phillip Brutus is Cayemite Enterprises attorney, Cherubin said.
Pierre currently is an advisor. He has shown some interest as an investor, said Jean Cherubin. If the project turns out successful, we hope to have him on board with us.
But ethics experts say the mayor, at the very least, should have disclosed his relationship with the men before voting on any city business involving Oleta Partners.
He certainly should have let the city know just so that everything would be on the table, said Bob Jarvis, law professor at Nova Southeastern University.
The relationship has also added fuel to criticism that the Haiti-born mayor is too involved in his homeland, at the expense of North Miami taxpayers.
Andre mostly cares about and speaks about Haitian causes, said Carol Keys, a vocal critic of Pierres who unsuccessfully ran against him in 2011. Hes not taking care of the people here in our city .
Pierre, did not respond to telephone calls, texts or an email for comment. But in the past, Pierre and his supporters have dismissed such claims.
The mayor is a Haitian American. He would love to see good things happen in Haiti, said Jean Cherubin.
Pierre joined Cayemite Enterprises as an advisor in 2008, one year before he was elected mayor. Swerdlow joined the team as an investor in 2010, Jean Cherubin said.
While the Cherubin brothers were adding the finishing touches on their Petite Cayemite proposal to the Haitian government earlier this year, Pierre was deliberating on Biscayne Landing.
After months of heated meetings, in March the City Council rejected a proposal from Oleta Partners, the sole bidder. Then, Pierre voted no.
In April, Pierre had a change a heart and asked the council to vote on an item that was not on the agenda. He asked the city to resume talks with Oleta Partners and to rescind the earlier vote.
This time, the item passed.
Asked by Galvin at the April meeting why he changed his mind, Pierre responded: You do not have to ask me that question. I do not have to answer that question.
Galvin said he did not know of Pierres connection to the Cayemite project when they voted.
Some North Miami residents also think the mayor should have come clean about the relationship.
If a sitting elected official wants to be in partnership with a city contractor on a private venture, I would think they would be smart enough to go to the ethics commission and get an opinion first, said Joe Celestin, former North Miami mayor.
Pierre, who will leave office next year, frequently jokes at city meetings that he plans to retire to a tropical island.
The mayor always talks about spending time on an island after he leaves office, drinking Cuba Libres, said Keys, Maybe this is the island hes talking about.