Ethics of city’s Publix gift card giveaway questioned amid commissioner’s campaign

The Miami Dade Commission On Ethics received a report on a controversial North Miami Beach-sponsored Publix gift card giveaway. It exposed a large crowd to political campaign material.

The city spent $225,000 to buy $150 Publix gift cards and distributed these over three days of events including on Oct. 7 at the Allen Park/DeLeonardis Youth Center and Oct. 8 at Uleta Park.

“It’s not taxpayer money,” North Miami Beach Commissioner Paule Villard said about the city-sponsored event she eagerly took credit for on FacebookLive posts.

On Aug. 16, the allocation of $225,000 in public funds for the giveaway passed with little discussion during a commission meeting. It was done through a COVID-aid-related resolution that directed the city manager to allocate the gift cards to North Miami Beach residents in financial hardship.

The resolution also specified the distribution needed to be done within 45 days of that meeting. Instead, the giveaways that Villard used to campaign for votes were held just as mail-in ballots were arriving to city voters — ahead of the November elections.

Villard’s political campaign materials were visible at the events, but not the city’s required checks of the beneficiaries’ proof of residency or hardship. City officials declined to comment on this report.

Watch the 4 p.m. report

North Miami Beach officials face criticism after using federal aid to buy Publix gift cards that attracted a crowd to see a campaigning tent. Read More

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