(NBC) North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre, already tangled in a string of controversies with just days remaining in his re-election campaign, is being accused of abuse of power by police union leaders for implying threats to officers if they issue him tickets when he gets pulled over.
And, police say, he gets pulled over a lot. About a dozen times during his year and a half in office, most frequently in his city of North Miami where officers complained to a union representative that Pierre sometimes says during traffic stops “do you know who I am?”
“They’re fearful of retaliation,” said John Rivera, President of the Miami-Dade County Police Benevolent Association, which represents North Miami police officers. “Politicians cannot be exempt from the law.”
And there’s a new development on the Mayor’s other recent controversy, denying that the camera he ordered installed in his city hall office was a hidden camera (the invoice described in detail two hidden cameras inside a smoke detector).
A source with firsthand knowledge of the incident, which cost $8,000, said the two hidden cameras were quietly removed Thursday. The source also explained two mysterious $3,000 charges to the city in addition to the hidden cameras and installation: The mayor and the city manager had their offices swept for secret listening devices. None was found.
Three sources also said the city’s top law enforcement officer, North Miami Police Chief Stephen Johnson, ordered Detective James Mesidor to install hidden cameras using Law Enforcement Trust Fund money, without city authorization.
Pierre’s other controversies range from spending unauthorized tax money for dozens of police-like badges for his associates, to failing to send to Haiti tens of thousands in donations for quake relief.
Many believe he remains under criminal investigation after his campaign manager was charged with bribery. Several campaign donations were given to Pierre who several sources identify as originating from the person who gave the bribe to his campaign manager.
Pierre vowed to return the money. But he failed to submit his final campaign treasurer’s report last week and is being fined each day for not doing so.
His critics’ concern is not his driving habits but the pattern of controversies, crystallized as the election looms this Tuesday. Pierre has generated a chorus of anger from North Miamians.
A video with audio from a dashboard camera inside an Aventura police car confirms Pierre does, in fact, tell arresting officers who he is. It shows Pierre speeding north on Biscayne Boulevard on Oct. 5, 2010 in a $150,000 Porsche – itself a controversy because he could not fully explain how he got the car.
“I’m the mayor of North Miami,” he can be heard telling the Aventura officer. “I just need to get with Hallandale Beach and meet with the mayor.”
The ticket was issued despite his excuse, in part, because the Aventura Police Department’s in-car computers print and issue the ticket before officers step out of their cars. Pierre was clocked at 66 in a 45.
“Here’s your copy and your instructions. Drive careful,” says the unimpressed cop handing him the ticket.
But what about the citations for all those police stops in North Miami? There aren’t any.
A union rep has learned from her membership that at least eight officers say Mayor Pierre implies a threat if they give him a ticket. So they don’t.
“You have someone who is essentially your boss making sure you know that they are your boss,” said Sgt. Christy Grant, a North Miami Police Union Representative.
“There is an air or feeling of reprisal, especially if you stop someone and they tell you ‘do you know who I am?’” she says. “You would expect a little bit more from someone who’s an elected official in our city to adhere to our traffic laws, to not put our officers in that position.”
In fact, Sgt. Grant herself unwittingly pulled over the mayor for speeding on 123rd Street near the bridge to Bay Harbor but did not cite him.
“I felt it was best for my personnel and my department not to do so,” she said with restraint in her voice.