North Miami mayor has police chauffeur

09/11/2013 11:23 AM

09/11/2013 8:56 PM

In response to threatening phone calls to City Hall, North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau now has a police officer chauffeuring her around to city functions.

In one instance, Police Chief Marc Elias drove Tondreau’s daughter to school.

The revelation came during Tuesday night’s council meeting when Councilman Scott Galvin asked why the city called a tow-truck to have a resident’s car removed from the mayor’s parking spot.

Galvin said he believed the tow-truck was called for an employee to park in the space instead.

That is when Tondreau clarified the white Chevrolet SUV with city plates was her police escort.

“The city car that was parked in my parking space was used by the police department since we have had threats to the city. Somebody wants to blow us out. Somebody does not like the fact that black people are in majority in this body. They don’t like it,” she said.

Tondreau was referring to menacing calls made to city staffers in August by a man upset over his expensive city water bill. Many North Miami utility customers received back-to-back bills because of a delay in the city’s billing system.

“You are going to have a war on your hands, and they are going to storm the building,” the upset caller told North Miami information technology director Ricardo Castillo, according to a police report.

The report also noted the caller spoke “negatively of Haitians and Cubans.”

North Miami City Manager Stephen Johnson said the city does not have an official policy for officers to escort public officials. However, he said because of the recent threats, if a council member asked, a police officer would be provided to protect the official at city events.

Johnson said he is working on formalizing a system where an on-duty sergeant-at-arms will be made available to drive council members around on an as-needed basis.

So far, Tondreau is the only council member to use the service.

Galvin said the city’s police officers should not be used as personal bodyguards and chauffeurs to the council.

“I don’t think council should be getting escorts wherever,” said Galvin. “If there is a direct threat, again, no one in the police department has contacted me to let me know.”

Tondreau said at Tuesday’s meeting that Chief Elias drove her daughter to school in a city police car.

After the meeting, Johnson said it would not happen again.

According to Johnson, Tondreau asked Elias to drop off her daughter to a North Miami school on their way to a backpack giveaway.

“That was a one time occurrence,” Johnson said .

North Miami police are investigating the anonymous calls to city hall.

Meanwhile, Tondreau said the threats are serious enough she does not feel comfortable parking in the lot across the street from City Hall if someone occupies her mayor-designated parking steps away from the building’s entrance.

“I don’t think it’s okay to park across the street, especially when this City Hall has been subject to all types of threats.”

She took issue with a complaint she said someone made to the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust about police ferrying her around the city.

“Whoever is calling the ethics committee to complain, it is my right to be accompanied by a police officer when the city is being threatened by God knows all types of crazy people,” she said. “I think my safety is a valuable as anybody else’s safety.”

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