March 18, 2013

North Miami mayor pays $8,000 civil fine to Elections Commission

North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre agreed to pay $8,000 to settle a complaint of improper campaign reporting.

North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre has settled a case with the Florida Elections Commission for improperly reporting information on his 2011 campaign finance reports.

Carol Keys, who ran unsuccessfully against Pierre in 2011, filed a complaint with the commission alleging, among other things, that he understated the value of bus bench ads and a billboard she said he received for less than market value. She also alleged, in at least one instance, he received more than the $500 campaign contribution limit from a single donor. Keys is a vocal critic of Pierre.

The commission found portions of the complaint were credible.

Pierre “falsely reported or deliberately failed to report information” required by Florida statutes 14 times, he certified that three of his finance reports were accurate when they were not, and he accepted a contribution in excess of the $500 limit, according to the commission’s findings. The commission did not specify the source of the donation.

Pierre paid the commission $8,000 in civil penalties to settle the case.

“Mayor Pierre is pleased to put this distracting matter behind him. He worked to clear up this technical election complaint before he finished his term in office,” said Pierre’s attorney, Benedict Kuehne.

In her complaint, Keys wrote that Pierre did not pay market value for 20 bus bench ads and a billboard erected on top of the City Inn Hotel at 660 NW 81st St.

In an affidavit to the commission, Pierre was vague about the bus bench ads and billboard.

Responding to questions from the commission for checks, proofs, invoices and any written documentation concerning the ads, Pierre responded “I have no access to such documentation, and am unaware of any requirement for obtaining such information.”

Initially, Pierre, an attorney, sought to deny any wrongdoing.

In a letter to the commission, Pierre wrote that the allegations were unfounded .

“It is clear that Ms. Keys has not accepted the result at the polls and is unable to move beyond her defeat,” he wrote.

He said that Keys’ claims were “baseless” “conjecture-filled” and “speculation-laced.”

Pierre’s attorney, Kuehne, also asked for the complaint to be dismissed. Kuehne asked the commission to have Keys pay Pierre’s attorney’s costs..

“This complaint is being pursued in order to damage Mayor Pierre’s personal, professional, and political reputation. For that reason, the Florida Elections Commission should assess an award of fees and costs against Carol Keys and in favor of Mayor Pierre in an amount not less than $15,000.”

The commission, however, saw things differently, and wrote it could prove Pierre committed violations of Florida’s election laws.

In the settlement, Pierre conceded to the commission’s findings and agreed to pay the $8,000. Records show Pierre completed his final payment to the commission on Jan. 30.

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