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Giering and Brewton took photographs of the jewelry and made a list describing the items, Ahr continues. Then they were placed in a safe. Subsequently Giering recommended that Camillus House could sell the jewelry to Robin in the Grove. Sources familiar with the transaction told Ahr that Giering and Brewton sold the items at a fraction of their actual worth and that the two employees had kept a gold watch and a diamond ring for themselves.
But Ahr says store owner Henry Azoulay provided Camillus with a fair market appraisal that the charity accepted. "My understanding is that Stephanie and Kevin also bought the jewelry [they kept] at the price of the appraisal," Ahr says. "I tried to get the jewelry back, but they had already given them away as gifts to loved ones."
Zuleta gave Camillus more jewelry on four subsequent occasions. Each time, the baubles were sold to Azoulay. But Camillus employees did not photograph or inventory the additional jewelry donations as they had done during the first transaction, Ahr says. According to Sam Gil, Azoulay paid Camillus $55,000 for all the jewelry.
During a recent New Times visit to his hole-in-the-wall store at 3414 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove, next door to Yucky's head shop, Azoulay, a skinny bald man with a bushy salt-and-pepper mustache, did not want to discuss the purchase. "It was a personal business transaction," Azoulay says. "And I don't talk about my business with reporters."
Brewton is no longer working for Camillus and could not be reached for comment. Giering would not comment for this article without permission from Ahr, who, citing Camillus's ban on employee-reporter conversations, declined New Times's request to speak with her.
On another front, Camillus put the clamp on Tyrone Hart's lawsuit, which accused Simpson and Camillus government relations director Peter England of some serious criminal behavior. This past September 27, Camillus settled with Hart, the charity's development director from January 21, 2003, until September 10, 2003. Hart had sued Camillus in federal court, claiming Simpson forced him to resign because he refused to follow Simpson's orders. Hart says he cannot comment under the terms of his settlement.
According to Hart's complaint, England requested he make a $500 contribution to a local political candidate. Hart complied and made the donation. Approximately fifteen days later, the complaint alleges, Camillus reimbursed Hart's contribution. Under state law, employers are prohibited from reimbursing employees for political campaign donations.
Hart accused Simpson and England of trying to coerce him into illegal campaign contributions on six separate occasions. In the suit, Hart said Simpson told him there was no reason he shouldn't contribute the money since Camillus was reimbursing him. Hart's lawsuit also claimed Simpson secretly paid $52,000 from the development department's budget to Jim Russell, a supposedly nonpaid volunteer helping Camillus solicit monetary contributions. Hart said he objected to Russell's payment but was warned by Simpson to stop making a fuss about it.
One could conclude Camillus's board was thinking strategically when it decided to settle with Hart. In effect, Hart was accusing Simpson and England of using money meant for the poor to pay off political favors. If any Camillus employee were to corroborate Hart's allegations under oath, that testimony could seriously hurt the charity's credibility among donors. But Ahr insists that is not why Camillus settled.
"We settled with Hart because we agreed on a severance package," Ahr says. "But we were prepared to go to trial. We would have vigorously defended Camillus House." Ahr also says he investigated Hart's allegations on his own. He claims he spoke to all the executive staff members who worked with Tyrone Hart on the third floor of Camillus's headquarters.
"No one can substantiate what Ty said," Ahr recollects. "No one can say they felt coerced into making political contributions. There are employees who have given campaign donations as private citizens. But Camillus House doesn't get involved in political fundraising."
Ahr also noted Russell's fundraising effort was a paid gig that was fully disclosed. According to Ahr, board chairman Bob Dickinson had recommended Simpson retain the services of Russell to assist in the charity's fundraising. "There was no secret about it," Ahr insists. "There was a contract drawn up to pay this guy a stipend on a weekly basis to do fundraising and report to Dale."
Simpson's defense lawyer Richard Marx says his client forced Hart to resign because he possessed a poor attitude, insulted donors, and failed to follow Simpson's instructions. "All of a sudden Ty Hart is the second coming," Marx sneers. "He could claim Dale is an ax murderer and people would believe him."
In the case of the mysterious volunteer fundraiser, Marx says Dickinson pressured Simpson to hire Russell. "According to Dale, Russell was getting paid $1000 a week and he had to raise $2000 a month," Marx relates. "He was pressured by the board chairman to hire him. Russell resigned before Dale could fire him."
Marx adds that Simpson wanted to fire Russell because he did not secure a single contribution during his employment with Camillus. "That caused some real tension between Dale and Mr. Dickinson," Marx says.
There was a day when the brothers who founded Camillus House would eat and sleep in the same shelter that housed the hundreds of homeless people the charity serves. It was a time when the brothers seemed to have taken their public vow of poverty seriously. But since 1994, the brothers have become primary examples of the corruption that has seeped into Camillus's noble mission. That year the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd paid $195,000 for a beautiful modernist house on a corner lot in Morningside, the heavily shaded, serene bayside neighborhood in northeast Miami.