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

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NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Florida. – The Miami Dade Ethics Commission has received a report of a controversial Publix gift card giveaway sponsored by North Miami Beach. He exposed a large crowd to political campaign material.

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

‘It’s not taxpayers’ money,’ North Miami Beach Commissioner Paule Villard said of city-sponsored event she was quick to take credit for on posts FacebookLive.

On August 16, the $225,000 allocation of public funds for the giveaway was passed with little discussion at a commission meeting. This was done through a COVID relief-related resolution that directed the city manager to award the gift cards to financially challenged North Miami Beach residents.

The resolution also specified that the distribution must be made within 45 days of this meeting. Instead, the giveaways Villard was using to campaign for votes came just as mail-in ballots were reaching voters across the city — ahead of the November election.

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

Watch the 4 p.m. report

North Miami Beach officials are under fire after using federal aid to buy Publix gift cards that drew a crowd to see a campaign tent.

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