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North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre’s bus bench ads prompt investigation

A North Miami activist and former mayoral candidate has accused North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre of falsifying campaign reports from his 2011 election.

The allegations are similar to those levied against former North Miami Beach mayor Myron Rosner, who was arrested last month for allegedly taking free bus-bench ads from a city vendor, Martin Outdoor Media, in the lead-up to his unsuccessful reelection bid.

Carol Keys alleges Pierre underreported the costs of bus bench ads bought from Martin Outdoor Media — which also does business with North Miami — and the cost of a billboard in a four-page complaint to the Florida Elections Commission.

The commission declined to comment on the complaint, citing its policy on elections investigations.

The commission sent a letter to Keys late last year confirming the investigation.

Pierre declined to comment for this story. His attorney, Ben Kuehne, did not respond to a call for comment. Kuehne also represents Rosner.

Keys’ complaint is similar to one filed against Rosner last year by local blogger Stephanie Kienzle.

Rosner was arrested last month on charges related to campaign financial misconduct involving bus bench ads.

Both mayors used Martin Outdoor Media Group to advertise on bus benches — including “happy holiday” ads emblazoned with their mayoral mugs.

Rosner drew criticism about the holiday ads from residents who complained they were thinly veiled campaign ads designed to skirt the city’s strict rules on electioneering signage.

According to Keys’ complaint, Pierre did not pay market value for 20 bus bench ads during a three-month period.

Pierre’s finance reports show he paid $1,600 to Outdoor Media Group.

The monthly rate for bus bench ads in North Miami are $125 or $275 for high traffic locations, according to Martin Outdoor Media’s website.

Martin Outdoor Media did not return calls for comment.

Keys also alleges Pierre underreported the value of a billboard ad that was erected on top of the City Inn Hotel at 660 NW 81st St.

The sign over the east side of Interstate 95 depicted a picture of a smiling Pierre and read “Reelect Andre Pierre City of North Miami”

After the election, records show Pierre filed an August amendment to his reports to include a $500 in-kind donation from City Inn Hotel for the rental of “ad space”

The Burstyn family, which owns City Inn hotel, also holds real estate interests in North Miami.

The city of North Miami holds a second mortgage on a commercial property managed by a Burstyn family member, according to city documents.

Attempts to reach the Burstyn family were unsuccessful.

The election commission is also investigating whether Pierre left out the full name, address and occupation of a contributor, as well as multiple counts that Pierre received more than the $500 contribution limit from individuals and businesses, according the commission’s response to Key’s complaint.

Keys, an attorney who ran against Pierre for the mayoral seat, said in an interview Monday that Pierre, who is also an attorney, cheated during the 2011 election.

“He didn’t play fair. He’s out there getting free services and hiding it,” she said. “The purpose of reporting things is for the public to see.”