Michael Etienne, World Traveler (Courtesy of North Miami taxpayers, of course.) (UPDATED)

North Miami City Clerk Michael Etienne has a sweet gig.

Not only does he make $36,000.00 per year, but he also has a generous yearly allowance for travel ($5,000.00), car ($9,000.00), cell phone ($1,200.00), and a miscellaneous expense account ($3,600.00).

In addition, he also receives medical, dental, life and disability insurance coverage costing at least $10,000.00 per year.  (*UPDATED BELOW)

All courtesy of North Miami taxpayers.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the median income for an entire household (up to four persons) in the United States is $54,462.00 per year.  Those ordinary folks don’t have expense allowances or free insurance, either.

With a total salary and benefits package worth nearly $65,000.00, little wonder Michael is so desperate to keep his part time job.

All he has to do to keep the river of cash (and perks) flowing is run for re-election every four years.

Conveniently, as the supervisor of city elections, Michael is in the position to make sure that any potential opponent is disqualified from running against him.

That’s exactly what he did to Janet Reed in the 2015 election.  You can bet he’ll pull the same dirty tricks again in 2019 when he runs for his final consecutive term in office.

The best part of all – for Michael, anyway – is that he’s got plenty of free time to spend your money.

Section 2-284 of the North Miami Charter states that “the city clerk shall not be expected or required to be present at city hall during normal business hours of the city government.”

The only thing he has to do is pop in once in a while to collect his substantial paycheck.

In addition to supervising an election once every four years, when he does show up at city hall, he gets to boss around the full time clerk’s office employees.  You know … the ones who do the actual work for roughly half his salary.

Oh, and he has to sit through two city council meetings a month.

Where he gets to display his “arrogant buffoonery” by injecting his unwanted, worthless opinions on topics he knows nothing about.

So, yeah.  It’s a sweet gig.

But, here’s the best part.

In addition to his lavish salary and all those perks, North Miami taxpayers picked up the full tab for 48 days’ worth of Michael’s globetrotting “working” vacations.

In 2016, during his considerable free time, Michael traveled six, count ’em SIX, times across the country and across the ocean.

To the tune of $15,644.16.

Yes, you read that right.

One of life’s greatest mysteries is that Michael was allowed to spend MORE THAN THREE TIMES his annual $5,000.00 travel allowance.

Here is Michael’s 2016 “working” vacation itinerary:

  • 1/9/16-1/15/16:  2016 Laserfiche Empower Conference, Long Beach, CA $1,944.00
  • 3/4/16-3/10/16:  National League of Cities (NLC) Congressional City Conference, Washington, DC $2,054.80
  • 5/5/16-5/16/16:  Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin, China $5,704.60
  • 5/20/16-5/26/16:  IIMC 70th Annual Conference, Omaha, NE $2,150.67
  • 11/15/16-11/20-16:  2016 National League of Cities Summit, Pittsburgh, PA $1,688.76
  • 11/22/16-11/30/16:  Association of Democratic Service Officers Annual Conference, Nottingham, Great Britain $2,101.33

Even though only two of these trips, the Laserfiche and the IIMC conferences, were specific to municipal clerk duties, it’s not as if Michael does any of the heavy lifting in his office.  He has people for that.

The two yearly conferences sponsored by the National League of Cities are held for local elected officials and their staff members.  Even though Michael is one of a handful of elected (not appointed) city clerks, he is not a voting member of the city council, nor is he responsible for setting any of the legislative policies discussed at these seminars.

In other words, Michael had no legitimate reason to be there.

Then again, “free” lunch.

And dinner.

Then there was Michael’s controversial trip to China in May as one of a seven member “delegation” from North Miami.

On his Travel Request (page 107), Michael stated that the purpose of his trip was to “visit local Chinese official [sic] in Tianjin and Beijing to market investment opportunities in North Miami and showcase current and future economic development incentives.”

Oh, REALLY?

Nowhere in the North Miami Charter does the city clerk’s duties include the marketing of investment opportunities or the showcasing of economic development.  There was absolutely no justification whatsoever for Michael to go on this trip.

And yet, his travel expenses were mysteriously approved.

But, wait.  There’s MORE!

On Tuesday, November 22, 2016, Michael packed his bags for an all expense paid, NINE DAY TRIP to Great Britain!

So he could attend a TWO DAY CONFERENCE!

Yes, you read that right!

But, here’s the real kicker.

North Miami taxpayers not only foot the bill for Michael’s paid nine day vacay, but he closed the city clerk’s office for two full days before Thanksgiving and took THREE OF HIS STAFF MEMBERS with him across the pond!

For seven of those days, clerk’s office employees Rafael Pedron, Cheryl Scott and Guerty Genosier joined Michael on his transatlantic voyage for the Conference 2016 of the Association of Democratic Service Officers, where this year’s theme was “Spotlight on Governance – your role, your future.”  (See page 240)

Conference 2016 included “speakers and discussions on public sector reforms and the impact on Democratic Services.”

Whatever that means.

Conference organizers were “delighted that political satirist Matt Forde” was scheduled to speak at the dinner.

Michael and his entourage were subjected to two days of this grueling “work” schedule:

Yeah, I know.  Positively exhausting.

No wonder Michael needed seven additional taxpayer funded days in the United Kingdom to “recover” from this two day seminar.

What any of the activities listed on this “programme” has to do with the duties of municipal clerks in the United States is yet another one of life’s greatest mysteries.

The total cost of Michael & Co.’s “working” vacation?

A “bargain” $8,227.21!

That’s not including, of course, the “training” pay that the three employees received while they weren’t actually working in the clerk’s office.

Which was closed to the taxpaying public for two entire days before  the Thanksgiving holiday.

But, hey.  Why should Michael care?  It’s not his money being flushed down the drain.

North Miami taxpayers, on the other hand, should be livid.

Then again, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Michael Etienne isn’t up for re-election until 2019.  At the rate he’s going, North Miami taxpayers will be financing his vacations for the next two years to the tune of another wasted $30,000.00.

Unless all of you have no problem paying for your clerk’s lavish vacations – ones that you yourselves could never afford to take – I urge one of you to seriously consider running against him.

The alternative isn’t pretty.  Just imagine the financial damage Michael will be able to inflict if he’s allowed to stay in office until the year 2023.

In the meantime, you should ask your City Manager why Michael was allowed to exceed his $5,000.00 annual travel expense limit, and insist that it doesn’t happen again.

Stephanie

*NOTE:  Newly obtained public record reflects that Michael Etienne’s Annual City Benefit Costs for insurance premiums are in the amount of $7,348.80.  Accordingly, his total salary and benefits package from the City of North Miami is $62,148.80.

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9 Comments

  1. North Miami Resident says:

    Can’t “someone” make a complaint to the ethics board?

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      “Someone” could. But “someone” would be wasting her time. A complaint like this isn’t worth the postage it would cost to mail it to the Ethics Commission. For one thing, it’s not the Commission’s job to be a fiscal watchdog over wasted taxpayer money, which is the only “crime” being perpetrated here. Michael hasn’t technically violated any ethics – at least not ones that the Ethics Commission gives a crap about. (I’m still trying to figure out what they do care about, but that’s another topic.)

      Wasting the public’s money for frivolous travel could be considered a violation of the public trust, but until the public stops trusting smarmy, self-serving politicians, and votes them out of office, the public gets exactly what they deserve.

      To paraphrase the outgoing president, “If you like your dirty politicians, you can keep your dirty politicians.”

      So, there you go.

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  2. Pam says:

    Is it possible to see a comparison between him and his predecessors. It is hard to believe that the ones who held that position prior to him, never travelled or go to seminars.

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      Alix Desulme was Michael’s predecessor. I can (and will) simply ask him how often he traveled while he was the clerk. If you want to compare, you can make a public records request for his travel expense record.

      But, if you are really interested in a comparison, you might find this interesting. After the Mayor of North Miami Beach read this blog, he was shocked. He’s been in office since May of 2011, and he said he doesn’t think he’s even spent $9,000.00 of his travel allowance since the day he took office.

      Think about that for a second. In nearly six years, George Vallejo’s (A MAYOR!) travel expenses averaged FIFTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS PER YEAR.

      Michael Etienne (A CLERK!) spends North Miami taxpayers’ money at a rate of FIFTEEN THOUSAND PER YEAR!

      Now ask yourself this. What did NM residents get for their “investment?” What did Michael bring back from all those trips that was a benefit to the city of North Miami and its stakeholders?

      It makes absolutely no difference whether or not Michael’s predecessor traveled more or less than he does. You can’t travel back in time and erase history. Alix is not the clerk anymore.

      What does matter is whether or not Michael’s attendance at these conferences and seminars were justified. He may be an elected official, but his position is merely a ministerial one. He cannot vote on legislation. Hell, he can’t even sponsor legislation! He is a clerk, not a councilperson and certainly not a mayor.

      Michael is a glorified secretary and nothing more.

      Would you authorize your secretary to spend $15,000.00 a year to travel on company dime?

      I didn’t think so.

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  3. Mister Mister says:

    Stupid residents of North Miami, each and every one of them. You would think the stupid council would come up with an ordinance to prevent this shit from happening. It’s bad enough that the council members went to China to look for ideas for a Chinatown, as if NY or San Francisco couldn’t wet the taste buds in their brains. The Council should impose an ordinance to keep the City Clerk’s office from traveling to conferences that have nothing to do with their position. The City Clerk may be elected, but he is not representing the residents the way the council members do.

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  4. Georges says:

    Text book case of corruption, that’s how it works folks. This is why they fight so hard to get elected. And this is happening in plain sight, who knows what is going on on the down low. Etienne knows and that’s why he gets away with it. You’re the bomb Stephanie!

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      Thanks for the compliment. The truth is, though, all this stuff is a matter of public records. North Miami residents have access to them. They only have to ask. Residents also have the responsibility to make sure their tax dollars are being spent wisely. It’s their money. No one in government has the right to use those funds for their personal benefit, as Michael seems to be doing.

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  5. Chaz says:

    Points well taken. I really am surprised. I certainly hope that the council resolve this matter as soon as possible. Thanks for the enlightenment.

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    1. Stephanie Kienzle says:

      Unfortunately there is very little the council can do about its Etienne problem. As an elected position, the city clerk in North Miami answers to no one except the voters. He has no boss and no supervisor to give him direction or hold him accountable for his actions. By the same token, he has absolutely no legislative powers and no authority to set policy. As I mentioned earlier, Michael’s job is merely ministerial, and in North Miami’s case, ceremonial. He is nothing but a figurehead for the clerk’s office.

      In Florida, there are only about five elected city clerks. The rest are hired by the elected officials making up the city council/commission. Usually, the municipal clerk is one of three at will contract employees, along with the manager and the attorney. This means that the council/commission has the power to hire and fire these employees as it sees fit. Since Michael cannot be fired, he can pretty much do as he pleases, spend whatever he wants on anything he wants as long as he stays within the budget for his department, with absolutely no oversight.

      The caveat, however, is that as CEO of North Miami, the city manager has the power to deny his requests for travel if he feels the trip is not beneficial to the residents of the city. I’m not sure why Larry Spring approved Michael’s travel without considering the benefit of these trips. More disturbingly, it’s not clear why he approved more three times Michael’s $5,000.00 yearly travel limit. It’s not as if he should be concerned whether or not Michael could have him fired. Michael has absolutely ZERO power over the city manager. He had no say in his hiring, nor can he vote to have him fired.

      The voters of North Miami should insist on a referendum to amend the charter to allow to eliminate the city clerk as an elected office, and change it to a contract employee position. Otherwise, Michael (or any successor) will continue to run amok as he pleases.

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