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November 15, 2013

Former N. Miami mayor will pay $7K to settle complaint involving soccer club

Andre Pierre, while he was North Miami mayor, used city fields for his soccer club without paying rental fees, which led to the complaint and settlement with the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission

Former North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre has agreed to pay more than $7,000 stemming from using a city athletic field for his private soccer club without paying any rent, as required by a city rule, according to a settlement with the county’s ethics commission.

Between October 2009 and January 2012, “Mayor Pierre solicited free use of city-owned facilities without paying fees that are required by other similar groups, and he neglected to disclose the value of the use of the soccer fields on financial disclosure forms,’’ the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust said in a statement Thursday.

Pierre, who could not be reached for comment Friday, did not contest the charges, the Ethics Commission said. He will pay a fine of $500, investigative costs of $4,634.70 to the Ethics Commission, as well as reimburse the City of North Miami $2,181.72 — for a total of $7,316.42. He will also receive a Letter of Instruction.

A Miami Herald investigation in April 2012 reported that Pierre reserved the North Miami Athletic Stadium, 2555 NE 151st St., for private soccer practice 78 times from October 2009 to September 2011. Based on the city’s regular rates, the rentals would have cost around $29,000.

Additionally, a private soccer club named the North Miami Taxpayers Soccer Club reserved the stadium 29 times from September 2011 to January 2012, racking up $9,000 in rental fees that were not paid, according to city records. At the time, Pierre was a member of the club. According to the Ethics Commission, the North Miami Taxpayers Soccer Club used the fields more than 100 times without paying.

Michael Murawski, an Ethics Commission advocate who handled the case, said Friday the commission estimated Pierre played on the field about 20 times. The other times, the club reserved the space in his name, he said. The Ethics Commission calculated the $2,181.72 that Pierre owes the city based on the 20 times he played, multiplied by the fees the city normally charges to rent the field.

Typically the city charges $150 for 90-minute day rentals and $250 for 90-minute evening rentals.

The commission found probable cause on Nov. 27, 2012, that Pierre, who was term-limited in June after two terms, “exploited his position’’ by avoiding thousands of dollars in rental fees when he regularly used the stadium, near the entrance of Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay Campus, free for pickup games for his soccer club.

Pierre engaged in this activity even though the North Miami City Council passed a resolution in April 2010, when he was mayor, which established policies for park rentals and limited fee waivers to certain qualified organizations for only one no-cost use per year. Pierre’s use exceeded that criteria, according to the Ethics Commission.

In a statement released by the commission in 2012, Pierre, through his attorney, said he was following protocol by utilizing the facility for “pick-up soccer games’’ and said the usage was consistent with “community service’’ activities of the city.

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