All the racial tension simmering beneath North Miami's political surface -- where the Haitian-born mayor has faced corruption probes and blamed the accusations in part on white enmity -- came to a head on Tuesday night in the city council. Mayor Andre Pierre exploded at Commissioner Michael Blynn, calling Blynn's daughter a "prostitute" and ordering Blynn's wife tossed from the meeting by security.
Now, Riptide has obtained a fiery email that City Clerk Michael Etienne sent the next day to an activist calling Blynn a "bigot" and a "cancer on our society."
Update: Etienne called Riptide to stand by the statement and affirm that he "believes this man is a bigot and he is a racist." Blynn, too, has responded, denying Etienne's accusations and telling us he's "pursuing all remedies available to us under the law."
Pierre's outburst at Blynn came during a discussion over a whether to privatize the city's trash pickup service. Pierre's nephew and former campaign manager, Ricardo Brutus, is awaiting trial on corruption charges after prosecutors say he tried to wring cash out of a businessman who wanted the trash deal done.
Blynn said that the high fees raised by the proposal are the direct cause of why Brutus "is facing a bribery charge," NBC Miami reported.
Here's video of the verbal fight:
In the aftermath of all that drama, longtime city activist Ellen Abramson sent an email to elected City Clerk Michael Etienne (who had also jumped into the fray against Blynn), telling him it was "rude and inappropriate" to condemn Blynn for bringing up a public case.
Etienne fired back his own furious email -- which Abramson supplied to Riptide -- calling Blynn a "bigot" and alleging that he'd repeatedly said racist remarks to other city officials.
Neither Blynn nor Etienne have returned multiple phone messages and emails from Riptide to comment on the email exchange and the allegations. Councilman Scott Galvin, who has read the email, lamented that it will stoke already hot racial tensions in Dade's fifth-largest city.
"It's very unfortunate that North Miami continues to be seen in a negative light because of these kinds of exchanges," Galvin says.
Abramson says she's dismayed an elected official wrote her with such venom. She says she'd like to see the Florida Bar discipline Pierre and Etienne (both attorneys) for the attacks.
"They keep trying to turn this into a racial issue, which is nonsense," says Abramson, who has lived in North Miami's Keystone Point for 40 years. "It's really disappointing."
Here's the full email exchange from Abramson and from Etienne. If we hear back from Blynn or Etienne,
we'll update this post. (Both have now responded; their full statements are at the end of the post).
Here's Abramson's original email to Etienne on Wednesday morning:
Michael Etienne, City Clerk
City of North Miami, FL
January 11, 2012
Ricardo Brutus, the nephew and former campaign manager of North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre, stands accused of accepting a bribe from a local businessman to influence the council's vote on another matter. Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/08/01/2341814/man-accused-of-bribery-says-councilwoman.html#storylink=cpy
How rude and inappropriate for you to reprimand and lecture Councilman Blynn for repeating something already printed in the Miami Herald. For the Mayor to call Mr. Blynn's daughters PROSTITUTES was disgusting and outrageous. If Mayor Pierre didn't want his family being mentioned at any meeting he should not have had his nephew as his campaign manager.
Your behavior was despicable. Mr. Michael Blynn has served the City of North Miami since you were a child. If nothing else, you showed complete lack of respect for your elder.
This is Etienne's reply, sent later on Wednesday:
Bigotry, personal attacks on family members, and the likes have no place in the public forum! Your behavior, and the behavior of the very few bigots who live in our City is despicable, not mine! I know first hand that Blynn has issues with minorities, primarily blacks and Hispanics. I heard first hand from Blynns' friends who told me about his comments regarding "blackies" and "that the Olympic athletes would never want to train here in the City of North Miami because of the blacks who live here" (not to mentioned many more similar racist comments I was told that was made by Blynn).
His behavior towards non-whites is inexcusable! I believe in Blynn's right to be a bigot, but his personal attacks on minorities should not be launched in a public forum!
So before you lecture me on confronting a bigot, a cancer in our society, highly consider keeping your mouth shut! As far as I am concern, birds of the same feather flocks together! If you do not believe in Blynn's ideaology, you should not defend him! If you share Blynn's ideaology, goodluck- because history has always been on the side of equality, justice, and righteous!
Hon. Michael A. Etienne, Esquire
Update: Both Etienne and Blynn have called Riptide to comment on Pierre's outburst and the city clerk's subsequent email to Abramson.
Blynn denies Etienne's charges. Here's his statement:
The remarks of the mayor at the city council meeting on Jan. 10 and the response and correspondence of the city clerk are outrageous and untrue. My family and I are exploring all remedies available to us under the law. On advice of my counsel, I have no further comment at this time.
Etienne, meanwhile, says he stands by the email and is "proud" of having sent it. He says African-American and Hispanic "leaders" in Miami have called to offer their support, though he declines to offer any specific names.
Here's what he says:
I want to encourage anyone who has a race issue or a bigotry, if you don't like Hispanics, black Americans, Haitians, Caribbeans, Jamaicans, or whoever, I'd highly recommend anyone who has issues with race to leave South Florida. We're all forced to live in unity among each other. Bigotry plays no role here and shouldn't play any role in South Florida, or anyone else. I stand by my response and I'm proud of it. I want to thank all the African-American leaders who congratulated me for standing up and confronting racism and bigotry.
I got a lot of comments and support. A lot of African-Americans and even Hispanics called and congratulated my courage to stand up to racism.
I want to publically make sure I thank them for reaching out to me.
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After Etienne read his statement, Riptide asked if he still stood by his accusations against Blynn in light of the councilman's denial. Here's what he said:
The things in the email, they were said to me and I was told of them by his friends, and I simply informed Ellen that this is what I've heard and why I have reason to believe that this man is a bigot and he is a racist, in my opinion. That's his opinion toward all non-whites and even toward Hispanics. He's always been very condescending toward me in person. It's appalling. These are things I've witnessed personally as well. I've seen things first-hand of his attitude and his indifference toward Hispanics and minorities.