Do Miami-Dade Commissioners need security escorts?

Commissioners have access to Sergeant at Arms in addition to $800 car allowance

MIAMI, Fla. - Miami-Dade Commissioners have access to a driver on top of their $800 dollar a month car allowance.

It's called a "security escort," but are some commissioners using the Miami-Dade police officers to drive them around for convenience?

Three full time police officers, known as the Sergeant at Arms, are assigned to protect 13 part-time Miami Dade Commissioners and, in many cases, actually drive them to public events.

Local 10 cameras recently spotted Commissioner Barbara Jordan being driven to a County Commission meeting by one of the officers.

Their duties aren't to chauffeur.

"I had earlier meetings and phone calls on my way in here I had to deal with. I wanted to make sure I was safe coming in and not having to deal with traffic," Jordan told Local 10's Jeff Weinsier.

The plainclothes officers provide what's called a "security escort" to commissioners where security and crowds maybe an issue, or if a commissioner has a temporary medical issue.

Jordan was driven to a commission meeting in a $42,000 county bought and owned Lincoln Navigator.

"I have to trust that my colleagues use the Sergeant at Arms when needed for justifiable reasons," said Commission Chairman Joe Martinez.

The Sergeant at Arms fall under the Chairman's purview.

Martinez says security escorts are available to all commissioners for their asking but no logs are kept showing who is driven where and when.

Jordan's office confirms she used the service 22 times in three months.

Taxpayers already give Jordan and other commissioners an $800 a month car allowance.

Local 10 has leaned of the 13 Miami Dade Commissioners, only three -- Xavier Suarez, Esteban Bovo and Bruno Barreiro -- have not been driven by a Miami-Dade police officer to an event or meeting.

Records show it costs taxpayers $1.1 million in salaries, benefits, fuel, and vehicle maintenance for the Sergeant at Arms service to commissioners in the past two years.

"A Lincoln Navigator? Isn't [that] extravagant for Commissioner to be driven around in?" asked Local 10's Jeff Weinsier.

"I think it's a little bit overboard. That was purchased at a different time," said Martinez.

As Commission Chairman, Martinez says commissioners will be reminded of the proper usage of the Sergeant at Arms.

"I can guarantee you it will be curtailed," he added.

Elected Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimemez has no security detail or Sergeant at Arms available to him and travels to all events in his own personal car.

In a memo obtained by Local 10 more than one week after we interviewed Commissioner Jordan, she is now claiming she has an officer drive her, at times, because she's a diabetic and suffers from hearing loss and deterioration of her eyesight.

But admits, in the same memo, being driven around.

"Makes it easier to conduct county business," she wrote.

Local 10 checked with other Florida counties.

Hillsborough, Duval, Orange, and Broward Counties do not provide a Sergeant at Arms security escort for its Commissioners.

The City of Miami is the only other place we found that provides this service to Commissioners.

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