The Village of Palmetto Bay's new mayor might have been at the center of one of the biggest scandals to rock Miami's most recognizable homeless charity, Camillus House. Peter England, who faces Shelley Stanczyk in a November 16 runoff, was Camillus's government relations director in 2004 when a former employee sued the agency for wrongful termination and accused England of violating state campaign finance laws.
Camillus House settled with Ty Hart, the agency's former development director, for an undisclosed amount, but in his federal complaint, Hart claimed England pressured co-workers to make political contributions to local candidates who were subsequently reimbursed by the agency.
State law prohibits employers from laundering campaign donations through employees.
England, who no longer works at Camillus, was never charged with a crime, but Hart still insists his ex-colleague was constantly pushing charity personnel to give money to local campaigns. "That was England's standard operating procedure," Hart says. "I didn't want to go along with that. It only took me two weeks to figure out things were crooked."
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Reached on his cell phone November 7, England said he was too busy to answer questions about Hart's accusations. "I'll see if I can get back to you," he said. At public candidate forums, England has emphatically denied wrongdoing.
Hart accused England of trying to coerce him into making illegal campaign contributions on six occasions. Hart also claimed he knew other employees who were reimbursed for contributing. When New Times first reported about the lawsuit in 2005, Camillus House leaders asserted an in-house investigation did not corroborate Hart's story.
Hart maintains he is telling the truth. "Peter was always twisting arms to get employees to make contributions to people who we didn't know and who weren't in the district that represents Camillus House," he affirms. "I refused to do it because I believe stealing from the homeless and the poor is a sin."