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When a couple of weeks passed and there was no word of a promotion, Nichols became impatient, Caride said. She told him she "wanted to hear from öthe horse's mouth' that she was going to be promoted," otherwise she wouldn't sign any more invoices, fraudulent or legitimate.
"Caride told Antonio Junior about Nichols' new demand to meet the Commissioner. Junior told Caride that he would set up lunch. Junior called Caride and told him to purchase take-out lunch with Nichols and to come to Commissioner Barbara Carey-Schuler's office at the school board building. Caride said that he and Nichols went to Pollo Tropical and picked up salads."
Caride recounted that when Junior introduced Nichols to Carey-Shuler, he said, "Remember I told you about her and how she is helping us and about her promotion." Caride said that Nichols and Barbara Carey-Shuler hit it off and began to talk about how they both had gone to the same university. At the end of the meeting Nichols and Barbara Carey-Shuler hugged and said goodbye.
Caride described Nichols as "giddy" when she left. He asked if she would sign invoices now and claimed she responded, "Yes, I'm happy, make sure you call Antonio Junior and tell him thank you." Then she reportedly added, "I like this whole thing with politics."
But after a couple of months went by and still no promotion, Caride said Nichols became impatient again and told him to set up another lunch, "or she won't sign any more invoices."
According to Caride, Junior acted swiftly. He scheduled a meeting the next day with Carey-Shuler at the now-defunct Café Del Mar on Biscayne Boulevard and 87th Street.
"Nichols asked Barbara Carey-Shuler about the status of her promotion. Barbara Carey-Shuler told Nichols that it was a case of bad timing because she had had a friend in personnel; however, she now has to go through other channels. Barbara Carey-Shuler stated that she appreciated her patience and thanked her for being so nice to Antonio and Rick [Caride]. Barbara Carey-Shuler told Nichols öThey came to me to make sure you are happy.'"
Caride grumbled about having to pick up the tab for the $100 crab-and-lobster lunch. But Nichols was pleased, he said, telling him "she really liked Barbara Carey-Shuler and that she was very happy."
Invoices began flowing again, and paperwork for Nichols's promotion was eventually submitted, according to investigators.
After taking a day to read and consider the report, Carey-Shuler wants to meet again. The day is sunny as we have lunch at the Blu Moon restaurant on Biscayne Bay. But while the literal clouds have passed, the metaphoric ones linger.
The commissioner recalls the meetings described in Caride's statements (investigators confirmed them after examining her calendar) but asserts she was never asked to do anything illegal or unethical.
"I do remember meeting with her [Nichols], but I never called anyone on her behalf. I don't get involved in personnel issues. If she got a promotion, it was not on my call," Carey-Shuler says, adding that she meets with many people. It could very well be that Nichols asked for help in her job, she allows. "I probably said I'll look into it. A lot of people ask for that kind of thing, but there's nothing I can do."
Carey-Shuler also points out that she didn't have a very good relationship with the county manager at the time, Merrett Stierheim, or former airport director Gary Dellapa. The airport, she notes, is not even in her district.
And although it's true Antonio Junior set up luncheon meetings with Richard Caride, she again asserts she believed it was to help the fuel farm win an award. If Junior was using the lunches as proof he was on good terms with the commissioner, implying she would get things done for him, "I just can't help what he might say about me. People do that all the time."
Barbara Carey-Shuler, age 65, was appointed to the Miami-Dade County Commission in 1979. Since then she has repeatedly been re-elected to the commission. She has had a long and storied career in politics, instrumental in establishing affirmative-action programs and minority set-asides for companies doing business with the county. She holds a doctorate in education and has worked as a teacher, administrator, and assistant superintendent for the Miami-Dade school district. She is no stranger to controversy. A technical school she founded shortly after the 1980 Liberty City riots, Carey Technical Institute, defaulted on a $300,000 loan from the City of Miami; the federal government later accused the school (though not Carey directly) of numerous financial and ethical irregularities. In 2002 the State Attorney's Office concluded she falsified time sheets for a part-time job with the school district but said the matter was not criminal. A subsequent ethics complaint was dismissed. Carey-Shuler denied the accusation, stating she had personal records that investigators did not examine. Now she has been implicated in a scandal at Miami International Airport.
Richard Caride, age 46, is the former Aircraft Services International Group supervisor who managed the fuel facility at Miami International Airport, known as the fuel farm. He is also a former Hialeah police officer who took part in an armed robbery at a Coconut Grove home in 1985 during which two people were killed. Prosecutors cleared him of being the triggerman, and he pleaded guilty and cooperated with authorities. He served three years of a seven-year sentence for second-degree murder. Caride pleaded guilty in the fuel-farm case and is now cooperating with prosecutors. The information he provides must be truthful or he'll be charged with racketeering and his information will be used against him. In exchange for his assistance, he is expected to serve two years in prison. He was also forced to sell his home. The $200,000 in proceeds was transferred to the Miami-Dade Aviation Department as restitution.