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North Miami councilwoman won’t run in May election

Marie Steril.
Marie Steril. Hand out.

One of North Miami’s council members has announced that she won’t seek reelection in the city’s upcoming May election.

Marie Steril, who has represented District 4 since 2005, will not run to extend her term. In a press release Tuesday she said that she wanted to return to the private sector and that it wasn’t an easy decision.

“I have tirelessly worked to address concerns that impair residents’ well-being,” Steril said in the release. “I have embraced District 4’s many challenges and transformed them into opportunities for the betterment of the community.”

She was the first black woman and first Haitian-American woman elected to North Miami’s City Council and has been celebrated by many in her district and community, but Steril has also faced her share of issues and ethical questions during her tenure.

She settled a Miami-Dade County ethics commission case last October after the commission found probable cause that she exploited her position when she requested more than $8,000 in upgrades to her mother’s city-subsidized home renovation.

Steril was ordered to pay about $5,000 in fines to North Miami and plead no contest to charges that she violated the county conflict of interest and code of ethics ordinance.

In 2011 her mother, Marie Charles-Brutus, received renovations on a two-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse that she had moved into through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

The ethics investigation found that Steril asked city staff to give her mother high-end countertops and appliances that were worth more than $7,700. Other residents in North Miami’s program, who offered to pay for similar renovations themselves, were told that was not possible.

The city also had to pay HUD $154,800 in 2012 for Steril’s mother’s receiving the home through the program because the city didn’t disclose that Charles-Brutus had family ties to an elected official or get an opinion from the city attorney, according to HUD rules.

Before the ethics case, in 2012, Steril faced scrutiny from a former city employee who said Steril helped a friend, Martine Saint-Aime, move into a NSP house, where she lived rent-free for about six months. Steril defended the action, saying she was simply helping a constituent.

Despite those situations, many in the Haitian-American community and in her district continued to support her and her work on improving the Northwest Seventh Avenue corridor and Northwest 131st Street.

“I used her work in her district as a landmark for what I’ve done in my district,” Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime said. “I hope the community is going to come together to replace her with the same devotion she gave to serving the community.”

Currently two other candidates have filed to run for the District 4 seat: Carline Paul, the political consultant also known as “Teacher Carline,” and Beverly Hilton, who lost to Steril in the 2011 election.

Councilman Scott Galvin, who has served on the council since 1999, said he was surprised when Steril told him she wouldn’t run. He thanked Steril for her years of service and expressed confidence in the council going forward even with it losing Steril’s experience.

“I feel good about the group that’s serving now even though the three of them have had a shorter tenure,” Galvin said. “If she was going to pick any time to step down, I think this was the right time.”

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