Stephanie Kienzle, a North Miami Beach resident who blogs about her town at votersopinion.com, noticed something curious while reviewing voter registration rolls: nine different voters were all listed at an address on NE 171st Street. Even more curiously: That house belongs to a city councilman, Frantz Pierre. Suspicious, Kienzle filed a complaint. The city, in turn, sent a water meter reader to check out whether a law on how many unrelated folks can live in one house was being broken.
As the employee checked the meters, someone inside called Pierre. The councilman did not take the news well. After berating the worker over the phone, he ordered him to return city hall, where -- in front of the city manager -- he screamed at him, called him a "fucking liar" and allegedly threw a chair.
The trouble all went down on March 14, according to an Internal Affairs report obtained by Riptide.
Kienzle's complaint had made its way to the city's code compliance office, which can't investigate voter fraud -- but can send out a meter reader out to check whether more than three unrelated tenants were sharing Pierre's house, which would be a code violation.
A city worker named Antonio Ortega was sent to Pierre's house, and was checking the meter when someone inside handed him a phone. On the other end was the city councilman, who told him, "You better come here to the city manager's office."
That's when things got really crazy.
Once inside, Pierre grabbed Ortega's work order and started screaming, "What the fuck is going on here? What the hell is this shit? I can't believe this shit," according to Ortega's boss, Paul Berrabeitg, who also witnessed the tirade.
Pierre "slammed" the clipboard into the desk and then "grabbed a chair" and slammed it into a row of chairs, Berrabeitg says.
In his interview with Internal Affairs, Pierre admits he became "very upset" during the meeting and did call Ortega a "fucking liar," though he does deny throwing any chairs. (Riptide sent Pierre an email to see if wanted to comment beyond his statement in the report; we haven't heard back, but we'll update the post if we do.)
The story actually gets even weirder, though. Three days later, Pierre convinced Ortega to meet him at a Denny's, and then tried to convince him to admit he was put up to the investigation and police complaint. Ortega denied that anyone coerced him to complain.
internal investigators ultimately concluded that neither Pierre nor any city employees broke the law, though Pierre's conduct -- the tantrum and the later meeting at Denny's -- are deemed "inappropriate."
There's an even stranger coda to this story, though: Two weeks later, on March 28, police came to Ortega's house because a city employee found that his water meter had been tampered with and reversed. Police found the meter had been "recently disturbed" and that -- in light of Ortega's conflict with Pierre -- the tampering "gives rise to much concern."
But police ruled the incident "inconclusive."
And what about the mystery voters registered to Pierre's residence? They're still a mystery for now, Kienzle says.
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